A brighter future may await abandoned home

Published 8:41 pm Thursday, August 6, 2009

The fate of an abandoned home in Columbiana may be about to take a turn for the better.

The Columbiana Zoning Board of Adjustments voted Thursday night to grant a variance request from First United Security Bank, the owner of the partially-completed home at 317 Highway 47, which will pave the way for the bank to sell the property.

Last year, the board denied a similar request, citing its inability to grant a variance for what it called a “self-inflicted” zoning violation created by the property’s original owner.

The bank’s attorney, Gilbert C. Steindorff, said First United Security Bank took ownership of the home, which backs up to the Magnolia Meadows Golf Course, about three years ago after having foreclosed on the loan it made to the property’s original owner, Lee House.

At the time of its construction, House was granted a variance by the board to allow the construction of a garage and guesthouse structure at the front of the property within 20 feet of Highway 47. Normal setback requirements are 40 feet.

However, when built, the structure was actually 17 feet from the roadway, in violation of the city’s setback variance.

Because of that violation, the house did not meet requirements for a certificate of occupancy and could not be sold. Thursday night’s action by the city’s zoning board means such a certificate can now be granted and bank officials can work to sell the home.

“We’re not here to change any city regulation,” Steindorff said. “We are here asking you to take another look at this very unique situation.”

He told the board leaving the home as is simply creates an ever-deteriorating eyesore for the city. Granting the variance, he said, would allow the bank to find a buyer who would move in and become residents of the city.

Zoning board member Tim Prince said the bank, as the second owner of the property, did not create the zoning violation, therefore any rules governing “self-inflicted” violations don’t apply.

“We have to look at what is best for the city, and there’s no question that to grant this variance is what’s best. I can’t see any way to see it otherwise,” Prince said.

Zoning board member Bill Justice, who voted against granting the variance in May 2008, said, the bank were not “willing buyers (of the property) and were not part of any scheme to violate the ordinance. They had to take the property back to protect their loan.”

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe weighed in via an email sent to the zoning board, which Justice read in Lowe’s absence.

“If this variance is granted, my hope is that the property can soon be sold to a person or family that will maintain the property in a safe and attractive manner that will cause the property to be a benefit to the city,” Lowe wrote in his email.

Prince made the motion to grant the variance request, which was seconded by zoning board member Richard Glasgow. Prince and Glasgow voted in favor of the motion, as did members Justice and Darryl McDaniel.