Fountain Green turns down variance request
FOUNTAIN GREEN—After Fountain Green Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Bryan Allred spoke out against the Sheep Show Committee’s efforts to build a new bowery at the city park, Mayor Ron Ivory stopped the plan in its tracks—for now.
The Sheep Show Committee had asked for a variance from the board of adjustments so the bowery could be built with the same setback distance from the street as the park’s older, north-most bowery.
The Sheep Show Committee, who say they intended to pay for the bowery construction themselves, were initially approved for the variance by the board at a special meeting held on Oct. 26, without public knowledge.
During a council meeting held on Nov. 2, in regards to the proposed bowery and its associated variance, Allred told Fountain Green’s leaders that the variance process the Sheep Show Committee had followed went against city law.
Under current Fountain Green ordinance, for variances to be granted, first the desired goal must be presented before the city council during a regular city council meeting.
Because the Sheep Show Committee’s goal was to be granted a variance to build a second bowery at the city park with the same setback as the old bowery, Allred said the city would have had to deny the request, as it would go against city ordinance.
According to Allred, once being initially denied the variance request by the city council, the Sheep Show Committee would then have had to meet with the board of adjustments to get approval for the variance, but only after the public had 15-days notice for public comment. After the residents’ time for comment on the proposed variance had elapsed, the board could then either approve or deny the variance.
Allred and the rest of planning and zoning wrote a letter asking the mayor and council for the variance decision to be reversed, but only because they say it was against the law.
There were several arguments presented from the letter by Allred why the variance went against the city’s laws.
Aside from no public notice being posted for the Oct. 26 meeting, when the variance was granted the board of adjustments did not have a full quorum consisting of its members and one member of the city council and one member from planning and zoning.
Furthermore, Fountain Green’s current policy is to limit buildings to be set back at least 25-feet from street intersections. The plans outlined by the Sheep Show Committee called for a 10-foot setback.
Allred reminded all those in attendance that the ordinance was created to protect the public by opening a clear line-of-sight for vehicles traveling on roads, especially at intersections. The only reason the old bowery did not have the mandatory 25-foot setback was that it was built before the ordinance was put in place.
During the public hearing, some of the residents present spoke out against the proposed bowery and said building another one would take away more open land at the park that they said they felt was already running low.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” one woman said about the open grassy area where the Sheep Show Committee wanted to build the bowery. “You take away all of that green space, we’re not getting it anymore.
She also said Fountain Green is running out of land and “there is nobody to donate any more ground,” and argued that once a piece of cement is laid for the bowery, there is no “undoing it.”
Board of adjustments member Annette Hansen argued that the bowery warranted being built because sometimes the other boweries are being used and another one would accommodate other members of the public “if they want to have picnics.”
Hansen also told the council the Sheep Show Committee wanted to have another covered area available to keep the sheep from getting too hot during Lamb Days.
After a long discussion, the Sheep Show Committee agreed to explore alternative options rather than building a permanent bowery, such as a temporarily covered space.
Mayor Ron Ivory declared the decision the board of adjustments made to grant the variance null and void.
“I didn’t know anything about [the ordinance], and I just want to make it clear that nothing was done to try and short-circuit anyone,” Roger Aagard, city manager, said.