Planning Commission approves Granite Street home

The Planning Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to allow an Ashland couple to demolish their mold-infested Granite Street home and construct a new one on their property.

The commission decided to allow Ron Rusnak and Lisa Zingarelli-Rusnak to sidestep the zoning laws in their neighborhood, which typically allow only 7 percent of a lot to be covered with development.

Development already covers 19 percent of the Rusnak's lot at 514 Granite St. However, because the 0.61 acre lot is about three-times smaller than most of the lots in the neighborhood, the commission decided to allow the homeowners to circumvent the Woodland Residential zoning district rules.

"There's 10 or so lots, it seems like, that have this problem," said Mark Knox, a former city planning staffer and planning consultant who represented the Rusnaks. "They just can't do anything without going through this process."

Although they voted to approve the proposal, which calls for constructing a slightly smaller home than the one on the lot now, several commissioners said they were concerned that the modern design of the new home wouldn't fit in with the woodsy-bungalow-look of the neighborhood.

"I was concerned about architectural compatibility, compatibility for the neighborhood," said Commissioner Debbie Miller. "It's a very important part of the city because it's across the street from the park."

Derek Severson, associate planner for the city, said the neighborhood features homes with a variety of designs, from Victorian to modern.

"It doesn't seem that the proposed design is out of character from the surroundings," he said.

Severson also said that although the drawings for the house are preliminary, the city will require the final design to look similar to the one the commission approved.

Meeting rules debated

During a discussion about changing the city's public meeting rules, several commission members said they didn't want a City Council member to sit at the table with them during meetings anymore.

"I think I've sometimes been a little annoyed by council members who participate in our discussion a little too energetically," said Commission Vice Chairman Michael Dawkins. "A lot of times the opinions come on through."

Councilman Eric Navickas, who serves as a liaison to the commission and who typically sits at the table with the commission, said he thought it was sometimes helpful to have a council member guiding the discussion to make sure the commission didn't get off topic.

"That is directing you in your conversation and I think that's the appropriate role of the council liaison," he said.

Richard Appicello, the city attorney, said it appeared the council was leaning toward making liaisons ex officio members of commissions, which would mean they could sit at the table only during discussions that didn't require a "quasi-judicial" vote by the commission.

The commission appeared to like that definition.

"An ex officio officer who knows his place and stays in it — or her place," said Commission Chairwoman Pam Marsh.

Meanwhile, Navickas said his reason for sitting at the table had less to do with wanting to steer the discussion — and more to do with the well-padded office chairs there.

"Why would you want to sit at the table?" Commissioner Dave Dotterrer asked him.

"Oh, for comfort's sake," Navickas said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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