Board approves new residential area uptown
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 21:04
The Oxford Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) held a meeting April 18 to review an appeal for the building located at 15 S. Beech St. where the Oxford Press was previously housed. There are plans for the building to hold both commercial businesses and residential areas.
However issues arose when it was revealed the side entrance of the building was to be used as an entrance door, which would go against building code. Buildings in Oxford are not allowed to have main entrances on the sides of buildings, according to Prue Dana, member of the city of Oxford’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
Alan Kyger, Oxford economic development director said, “It is listed in the city’s code that the principal entrance of buildings must face the street.”
According to Dana, the zoning code says every building should be located on the street and the alley does not serve as the street so having a main entrance door located in the alley goes against usual regulations. The bottom floor of the building will house commercial space with residential areas above so the residential door would be located off the side of the building.
“We looked at it strictly as finding a variance for the side entrance, not finding but over turning the zoning rule that says it has to be facing or bordering the street,” Dana said. “So that’s all we were dealing with when we look at variances.” According to Dana, the BZA uses certain standards in order to make its judgments regarding the property zones being appealed. One of the issues the board looked at was the fact Duke Energy had electrical poles close to the entrance of the building.
“Duke Energy has its poles close to the entrance and the fire chief felt they were too close,” Dana said.
The poles were considered close to the building but not close enough to cause a hazard that would stop the building plans. The owner of the project, Stewart Developers LLC, said it would be too expensive to put the lines underground.
The building’s architect said he could possibly bump the side entrance out a few feet in order to avoid the lines but it was agreed the change would be miniscule and unnecessary, according to Dana.
“Basically when we look at these there are lots of practical entrances for this building,” Dana said. “And if we want our uptown to develop as it has been over the last 10 years we need to approach with some flexibility. We would never make decisions that go far against any standards like health and safety. There would be no question then but this side entrance easily could have been built out and turned.”
Scott Webb, architect for the building on South Beech Street said, “Duke Energy asks for a certain amount of clearance around wires and we got them to agree to put wires on one side of the poles so that they are not over the alley. The fire chief expressed concern that the door would be on the same side of the power lines but our code doesn’t say it can’t be on the side, it just has to face forward.”
Scott said he showed the BZA how he could change the building to make the residential entrance door face forward.
However, the BZA almost unanimously agreed to allow construction to move forward so the commercial and residential areas of the building would both be included and none of the proposed changes, such as bumping out the side entrance door, needed to be made, according to Dana.
“Our granting them the variance allowed them to use the depth they could out of the building and there’s a little bit of precedent that goes on there,” Dana said. “There’s a building residence behind Fiesta Charra [Mexican Restaurant] that is behind an alley for example.”
Overall, Dana said the building and zoning codes are good because the city does not want too many buildings with sideways entrances uptown.
“Zoning code is good it’s just that in this usage it needed to be re-looked at,” Dana said. “And the old Oxford Press building is not historical or anything so this new building may improve the way that it looks.”