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Planners table variance to research fire code

by Annette Beard | January 12, 2022 at 8:52 a.m.

A variance request brought before the Planning Commission was tabled pending further investigation.

Cody Ragand, owner of Mr. Handyman, appeared before the Commission for a variance from an eight- to a four-feet separation between buildings.

"What we have here is a portable building that is built on the west side of the house. It's large enough that if we went a little bit further, we would have been in utility easements," he said, explaining that there is a four-feet clearance between the building and the house. "It's a 'she-shed' ... it's on concrete pillars. It has been built. We were unaware of the code."

"Fire code requires an eight-foot separation between buildings/structures," Tony Townsend, building official, said. "It is a portable structure, but because of gas line... located four feet from existing house instead of eight feet."

Townsend said because it's a portable structure, it doesn't have to meet setbacks.

"That's a pretty big variance," Dr. Karen Sherman, planner, said.

Al Fowler, chairing the meeting, asked where there was guidance from the Fire Department. City attorney Shane Perry called Fire Chief Jared Powell who said he would research the issue. He said he was unaware of a regulation in the fire code.

Townsend said there are other buildings in town that may have as small a separation, but they're smaller buildings.

"This is a fair size structure," Townsend said.

The building is 16- by 16-feet, according to builder Kendall Brown. "It's a beautiful building. His wife's very excited about it."

He said three utilities are located in the easement near the fence and if the building were moved two feet, it would be "on top of the gas line."

"When we come in and talked to Tony, we talked about the lot, lay back... and he said 'no, we're good,'" Light said. "Obviously we don't want to cover any utilities up. We just want to do the right thing."

"Asking this body to initiate 50% of the rule is a 'big ask,'" Perry said, asking the home owner to consider other alternatives.

Townsend said, "I enforce this rule not by personal knowledge but by former fire chief Frank Rizzio telling me there was an eight-foot separation in the fire code."

Ragand said, "Let me see this code. I want to see this in writing please."

"I will personally research that," Townsend said, adding he believed it was in the 2007 Arkansas Fire code.

Ragand said, "Let me see this code. I want to see this in writing please."

"The only place to move it is towards the fence, that's a huge concern," Brown said, adding that the building was constructed "a lot heavier" than portable buildings bought already constructed.

Ragand said there is a "pretty substantial cost" to move the building.

Planning Commission member Greg Pickens made the motion to table the request until the next meeting or the issue is resolved.

"I apologize ,at least on my behalf, that we didn't foresee the need to have a reference from fire chief ... and take actions to either have him present or have had research," Fowler said.

Three public hearings were held for the rezoning requests. Several people asked questions, but no one offered any objections.

One piece of property, 5 acres on Hazelton Road, was approved for rezone from agricultural to R-3, residential.

Architect Ryan Faust said the developer intends to build duplexes or triplexes.

"It will not be single family housing," Faust said, adding that there may be either one- or two-story buildings. "A triplex may be multiple stories because it allows room to put a garage in so there aren't so many cars in the driveway."

City building official reminded city officials this project had been presented to them in a tech review in November.

Dennis Hoover, representing Kevin Felgenhauer with Willow Run Partners, asked for R2 on 44.19 acres on West Pickens from Agricultural and on 19.98 acres on also on West Pickens from R1.

City Street Department superintendent Nathan See said the property is in the process of being annexed.

"We talked about connectivity between the three developments," Townsend told city officials regarding the two properties to be rezoned.

All three rezone requests were approved.

Planning Commissioners elected Al Fowler as chairman, Michael Wilhelm as vice chairman and Patrick Wheeless as secretary. Five Planning Commissioners were present.

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