John Witt sent a letter dated February 11 to the neighbors of his proposed “Downton Walk” development on Jumel Place. In the letter he informs them that he is applying to the Zoning Board of Appeals for three variances. He identifies these as 1) an increase in lot coverage of 16%, 2) a decrease of minimum front yard setback of 9 feet, and 3) an increase of the residential fence height of two feet.
He spins the changes these variances will cause to make them seem less offensive than they are.
The increase in lot coverage by 16% means that the lot coverage would go from 30% to 46%. The reduction in the front yard setback of 9 feet means the required 10 foot setback would be reduced to just one foot effectively eliminating any front yard. He would raise the height of a “fence” by 2 feet beyond the zoning limit thus creating an 8 foot high wall.
So spin is one thing. Quite another is to simply leave out other requested and important variances:
- He fails to note that the rear yard setback would be reduced from the required 25 feet to 6 feet. It is interesting to note that the narrative is complicated by the fact that he is building 7 units which normally would require multiple setbacks but through a complicated legal sleight of hand, he is only asking for one variance for these seven houses. The dubious strategy being facilitated by the Zoning Board of Appeals will be discussed in a separate post.
- Which brings us to the biggest overlooked variance. He fails to mention that he is seeking a variance to build what are in effect seven single family homes on a parcel that is zoned for only five.
I know that many readers may respond to this business, as did most of the members of the ZBA, as no big deal. Many of us still value the concept of trust, a quaint and increasingly rare commodity, based on presenting things in ways that reflect as accurately as possible what they are. Were I on the ZBA, I would be very troubled by this letter and, based on it, treat Mr. Witt with considerable caution and reserve. As the video of the meeting documents, most of the members of the ZBA were beyond warm with Mr. Witt. Of course, many of them are in the same business as Mr. Witt.
In an effort to be fair to Mr. Witt, I emailed him offering to publish any defense he would like to offer regarding his letter (see below). To date I have not received any sort of rebuttal. Should I receive one, I will publish it.
From: John Kaufmann [email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2016 12:51 PM
To: ‘John Witt’
Subject: RE: Jumel Place lettet
I am in London until March 20.
I will be posting regarding your letter shortly so I hope I hear from you before I post.
From: John Witt [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2016 10:48 AM
To: John Kaufmann
Subject: RE: Jumel Place lettet
I will respond in detail to the blog you posted.
Please give me a call when can.
John Witt, President
Witt Construction, Inc.
563 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
From: John Kaufmann [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 12, 2016 8:51 AM
To: John Witt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: John Kaufmann <email@example.com>
Subject: Jumel Place lettet
In your February letter to the Jumel Place neighbors you offer that you are only applying for three variances when it appears that you are seeking more. I would be grateful if you could explain this apparent discrepancy.
I publish a blog and will publish your response with your permission.
Thank you in advance.