ORANGE — The Planning and Zoning Commission has had ongoing discussions about revising the zoning code to diminish the number of deck variances necessary at the Lakes of Orange. According to Councilman Jud Kline, an architect and council’s representative to the commission, the members would rather review each variance on a case by case basis.

“Because of the irregularity of the properties and the setbacks that occur behind many of the houses, there are some restrictions on what they can and can’t do relative to creating decks,” Mr. Kline said at the council meeting on Dec. 4. “We’ve had this ongoing discussion on whether it made sense to change the regulation on the setback to eliminate the need for some of these variances or just continue to deal with them on a case by case basis.”

The Lakes of Orange is a green-certified housing development near the intersection of Brainard and Emery roads. There are seven phases of the housing community where the developer is Kertes Enterprises and Pulte Homes is the primary builder.

Mr. Kline said that property owners in the Lakes of Orange have come to the planning commission for a deck variance due to the shape of the lots and how the houses are oriented. The zoning code requires various distances in front, side and rear setbacks that the house must comply with, otherwise the homeowner must apply for a variance.

Rather than approving variances for individual homeowners in the Lakes of Orange, Mr. Kline said that the planning commission discussed whether they should change the zoning code language to accommodate decks that encroach into setbacks.

“It is more appropriate to determine them on a case by case basis,” he said on Friday.

Mr. Kline said that he could not recall a time when the planning commission did not grant a deck variance for the Lakes of Orange, noting that it is not appropriate to penalize the homeowner. He said that the commission applies a “litmus test” to determine if it should grant a variance or not. The test reviews practical difficulties in meeting the zoning code or a hardship created by doing so. Now, the commission is reviewing incoming plans carefully to see if there could be a variance needed later on if the homeowner decides to build a deck.

“Our antennae are up,” Mayor Kathy Mulcahy said, who chairs the commission.

“We’re trying to look at house plans that come in now and consider that there might be a deck that comes later,” Mr. Kline said. “And how might the placement of the house be altered to minimize the likelihood of a variance.”

He said that Pulte Homes has an obligation to their customers to inform them that they may need a variance for a deck. The village has been accommodating with deck variances, Mr. Kline said, but does not want people to assume that they will automatically be granted a variance. He said that people should remember that there is an application process that they must go through.

In other news, the recreational trail construction is on hold for the winter months, according to Service Director Bob Zugan. In the spring, construction crews will work on the remaining streets. Plans include installing a trail on Brainard from Harvard Road to Waterford Court, Harvard from Orangewood Drive to Lander Road, Lander from Harvard to Orangewood, Miles Road from Harper Road to Brainard and Miles from West Woodcrest Drive to Lander.

Mr. Zugan also said that the village is considering adding a trail on Orangewood from Harvard to Lander, which is not in the current contract. He said that the village will review its finances when the rest of the project is completed.

Also, Mayor Mulcahy administered the oath of office to Councilman Brent Silver. He ran unopposed for a two-year term this fall to fill the seat that former Councilman Ron Barron vacated upon his death in April. Council appointed former Councilman Alan Charnas in June to fill in for the rest of the year. Council also voted to reappoint Anthony Lazar to the planning commission for a three-year term.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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