Residents pack public hearing for bowery variance
FOUNTAIN GREEN — Following a packed public hearing, the Fountain Green City Council referred the Sheep Show Committee back to the Board of Adjustment to make another request for a variance for a proposed bowery in the city park.
The Sheep Show Committee is comprised mostly of parents who help kids host the youth sheep show and auction during Lamb Days every July.
Last month, members of the panel met with the board to seek a variance to build a new bowery with the same 10-foot setback from the street as another bowery in the park. That bowery went in years ago, so the shorter setback is grandfathered in. The variance is now required because the city zoning ordinance requires a 25-foot setback.
The board recommended approval of the variance. But at a subsequent city council meeting, all council members voted for Councilman Jerime Ivory’s motion to deny the variance because proper procedures were not followed in initial review of the variance request.
Sheep Show Committee member Amy Oliver said the committee had requested the 10-foot setback for reasons that go beyond aesthetics, contrary to what some residents suggested at a meeting last month.
“We don’t want to push it farther into the park and take away from the gathering space and where kids play around during baseball games,” she said.
She also said the bowery would serve as a shaded holding area for sheep during the two-day Lamb Days event and give residents and visitors another place to host family events in at other times.
“It’s not just for us,” Oliver said. “I just want to clarify that it’s for everyone. We realize the sheep show is just a couple of days, but we had issues with people who told us their sheep need shade during those hot days….It’s for the safety of the animals.”
But another woman at the public hearing said, “The sheep are there for one-and-a-half, maybe two days, and I’m sorry, but they don’t really care if they have shade or not because they’re getting slaughtered the next day.”
Most residents who opposed the variance expressed concerns about taking away more grass that children play on. “Once you pour concrete, it’s really hard to take it away,” one resident said.
While some residents suggested getting more tables to use in various facets of the Lamb Days celebration and storing them in the new bowery, others argued turning the new bowery into a storage facility would take away from its function as a site for gatherings at times other than Lamb Days.
Bryan Allred, chairman of the planning and zoning commision, read from the zoning ordinance the five conditions that must be met before a variance can be granted:
- Enforcement of the ordinance as written would cause an unreasonable hardship.
- Special property circumstances apply that do not apply to other properties.
- A variance is essential to the enjoyment of substantial property rights possessed by other properties in the same district.
- The variance will not substantially affect the general plan.
- The variance will respect the spirit of the zoning ordinance.
Allred said he was not opposed to the bowery but simply wanted to ensure the council followed the ordinance presently on the books.
Ivory said he had no intention of proposing any change in the ordinance itself to reduce the 25-foot setback requirement. He said he wanted the committee to meet with the board of adjustments to request a variance for the bowery alone.
“If it goes in that direction, it will be for this particular structure, period,” he said. “Not for everything that follows.”
“The big thing is (the 25-foot setback) would push the bowery farther into the park,” Councilman Scott Collard said. “That’s why it’s better (with a 10-foot setback) and why there is a variance being asked for. If you put it in the middle (of the park), it takes up more space. We could discuss it on and on. I call for a vote to send this to the board of adjustments for the bowery as it has been proposed.”
The council agreed, except Ivory, who said the Sheep Show Committee and the city should consider a temporary solution.