Juneau man protests his neighbor's pitched roof

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004

Juneau resident Joel Casto is appealing a Planning Commission decision that allowed a pitched roof, which Casto says blocks his view and reduces his property value.

The appeal says Casto was denied due process from the city's community development department, the commission adopted a "flawed" analysis from the department and the roof fails to meet city code standards.

"My wife and I struggled over whether we'd file an appeal," Casto said Wednesday. "After much consideration and reflection, we decided we must follow this through."

Casto, who filed the appeal Sept. 2, wants the city to remove the roof and replace it with one that meets city code. The Juneau Assembly agreed on Monday to hear the appeal. No date for the hearing has been set.

Casto lives behind Highland Terrace Condominiums on Irwin Street, where Design North in Douglas built the roof. The roof blocks Casto's view of the Gastineau Channel and downtown, reducing his enjoyment and his property value, he said.

He said the city denied him due process starting in April, when he sent a letter to then-permit specialist Debra Purves indicating the pitched roof may not meet city code. Casto faults the city for not measuring the height of the building before construction to see if it met the city's 35-foot height limit. Buildings taller than 35 feet require a variance.

City practice has never been to measure buildings, due to a lack of manpower, community development director Dale Pernula said Wednesday.

That may change because of this case, said Purves, who has since switched jobs and is a city building official.

"Maybe in retrospect we should have gone out and measured it," she said Wednesday.

If the city staff thinks the height of a building is close to the 35-foot limit, Purves said it may elect to measure the building or require the contractor to submit a stamped drawing by a surveyor or engineer attesting to the height. Highland Terrace ended up being 37.5 feet tall with the pitched roof.

Design North failed to properly measure the height of the building in the drawing it submitted to the city, Purves said. The city relied on that drawing. Company officials were not available for comment on Wednesday.

Staff members finally measured the building, but not until about a week after construction began, Casto said. At that point, the city decided to require Design North to seek a variance, which the commission granted on Aug. 10.

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