Hope you enjoy your new view, we sure have for the last 35 years.

This is what my neighbor said to me when expressing his disappointment about what our house does to their view.

Incredulous at their opposition to our plight, I asked if they wanted me to put a miner’s cabin back on the lot and their reply was “well, that’s what you bought.” Even if I tried, the city wouldn’t let me. The old house had 7ft ceilings and a shallow sloped roof that wouldn’t pass modern code.

Their view was such that they could just see the water over our old house, when standing at their window. Bringing our basement and main floor alone up to code is enough to alter their view. Here’s a pic taken from their living room window, you can see our dormer and their view which still includes plenty of sky, mountains, trees:

It’s been a rough year for my family. One thing after another. When my neighbor called at 7AM last week, I didn’t tell him that Meadow had fallen on her head and we’d spent half the night at the ER.

I also assumed he’d be human enough to have a concept of our overall situation since the fire burned our home and all our possessions: broke; descending deeper into debt; house-less; over-stressed; trying to navigate the wiles of the insurance company, bureaucracy of the bank and city, and overall complexity of new home construction. He didn’t. Our conversation began semi-civil and quickly devolved into confused emotional blustering on both our parts. We hung up unresolved. I got in the shower, and came out to find a voicemail from him in which he told me we need to “figure something out before push comes to shove”.

I didn’t return his call, but did do some research. Everyone I talked to, including officials with the city, said we were OK. We had a permit and were following all the rules. The city’s planning department issues permits for just this reason, to make sure everything is as it should be. Indeed our neighbor had gone to the city and reviewed the plans, told them of his concerns, and they turned him away saying there was nothing to be done since the permit was issued.

So instead of continuing pointless emotionally-charged “conversations”, we wrote our neighbors a letter. We tried to explain our family’s necessity for a proper house. We tried to appeal to them to put themselves in our shoes, and then make a gracious decision to let us continue.

We were relatively confident that nothing would come of it other than grumpy neighbor relations, until today when my builder informed me the city issued a stop work order on the “west 10ft of 3rd floor”. Our neighbor’s attorney had sent a letter to the city, causing them to go back over our house plans with a fine tooth comb. And… they found something.

As anyone would, Laura and I are trying to turn this lemon of a situation into lemonade. Our design calls for the addition of a long desired dormer to the top of the house. For financial and structural reasons this dormer will extend from the center of the house all the way to foundation’s edge in both the front and back. Our designed house is the same height, and our dormer the same style, as found on many other Basin Road homes, like this one:

As it was explained to me, the code for our area says you can build up to 35ft so long as you’re 10ft back from the front property line. It’s common for old downtown houses to be directly on the city property line, and the code (written decades after the house was built) says that if your house burns down your rebuild is grandfathered in at the same footprint. The code doesn’t address height very well, but as it was explained to me, essentially, the front 10ft of our house above what previously existed isn’t grandfathered.

When you want to do a “projection” on an existing/grandfathered house you have to get a Conditional Use permit. This is done through a public hearing where the Planning Commission hears testimony from the public, reviews evidence, and makes a decision to allow or deny.

The city failed to catch this when they reviewed our plans back in May. They stamped them and gave us a permit. Had they flagged it, we would have gone through the conditional use process months ago. But they didn’t. In the meantime we’ve been ordering and building in a tight deadline before winter. The windows are paid for. The custom trusses will be here in two days.

The city would probably have let the permit stand as is if it weren’t for the letter from an attorney. So I went to talk with my neighbors. At first it didn’t go so well. I tried to keep myself in check but my entire body was vibrating with rage and I may or may not have used some choice words.

What it boils down to for them is that they can’t just “roll over” and let their view be taken away. They feel they should’ve been part of the design process and that the neighborhood should have a chance to chime in on the dormer. Had the city told us this was required back when it was feasible for us, we would have been happy to oblige. As it is now this ordeal threatens our entire project. If the Conditional Use is denied our entire floor plan has to be redone.

I went back over to the neighbors this morning to plead with them to just let us have our house. They won’t budge. So, another chapter in the Pink House saga begins. Looks like we’ll be having a public hearing in front of the planning commission. I’m curious what the community and other neighbors will have to say.

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20 thoughts on “Hope you enjoy your new view, we sure have for the last 35 years.

  1. please don’t ever tell me who these people are. i couldn’t possibly be responsible for what i may say about them in front of a large audience one day. needless to say, it would be unprintable.

    and this is why we need more mafia in this city.

    one word:

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  2. nothing like making house plans with the input of neighbors, ffs. like *that* wouldn’t have taken an eternity!

    it’s too bad they’ve been inconvenienced…

    hang in there!!!!

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  3. One thing in your favor is CBJ should actually want youcompleted houser on the tax rolls as soon as possible. Hard to believe sometimes though, isn’t it? good luck!

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  4. Really, is everyone entitled to a view as well as the property their home sits on? Tell them to go talk to Ken and Jill about what happened to their view after they built their new apartment. I would like to knock down the St. Ann’s building so I can have a view too. Let them have their public hearing. The community will have something to say. Let a family have their home which should trump a view any time. Good luck and hang in there.

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  5. Seems to me if the city made the mistake months ago and you proceeded in good faith, then that’s that. The reason the CITY reviews plans is because THEY are the experts on the code and are arbiters of it’s enforcement. Since you didn’t intend to defraud the city, the onus is on THEM to explain why you should be stopped from proceeding, and one upset neighbor (who’s clearly a jackass of the first order) isn’t reason enough to halt all plans, purchases and activities already in motion.

    Try to get a lawyer to work with you in prepping the defense, possibly even threatening the city with a lawsuit for lost money and emotional distress.

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  6. Considering that I am quivering with rage, I do not know how you could hold back.

    Once you sue the city and win a huge pile of cash, you could start over with a 4-5 story apartment building.

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  7. this is one of those times I wish I was living back up there so I could attend said public hearing and voice my support of your plans.
    I’m amazed at your will power to keep your rage in check. I’d have lost it. Good luck!

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    1. Ryan – attorney fund. Put me down for an hour. It’s sounding to me that it’s not the city you have to appease / appeal to at this point, it’s the city planning commission.

      On a personal note, should your neighbor want CCRs, I know many communities in California that would welcome them with open arms.

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  8. If you hire an attorney, and win, your neighbor pays lawyer’s fees.

    Crap like this happens all the time, through property owners false sense of entitlement. (Can someone really own a “view?” Really.) Down in the Florida Panhandle, there is a case of some beachfront property owners suing the state because they added to their beach, creating a buffer zone using public dollars to protect private property from hurricanes. The property owners are claiming that the state has “taken” their beach and therefore their ocean front property is worthless. I wish I was making that up.

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  9. I have a feeling that your neighbor couldn’t prove “excessive blockage” of their view shed, even if they were allowed due process in the first place. So this motion to stop work and add to your heartache, is just a dick move. They have a low likelihood of winning, but they still just want to stop your work. ASSHOLES!!!

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  10. Obviously they do not have much happiness in their life and hate to see others happy. Be strong as this to shall pass and before you know it you guys will be in your little pink house all snug as a bug. Some people are just the miserable type and don’t know how to be nice. Feel sorry for them – and don’t go shopping in their store anyone!!!

    Love to you all, Your Camano Island Family!

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  11. This is crazy…..sounds like they are sad, unhappy people. Know that you have support from all over the state, not just in Juneau. From reading everything and looking at all the pictures, it looks like they don’t have much of a leg to stand on. My sister went through something like this in Oregon. It was a pain, but they prevailed. Good luck!

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  12. Ryan and Laura-
    You will have the support of the neighborhood, and if I’m in town, I will be standing proud in support of your family and your house at the hearing!!! These neighbors have been grumpy as long as I have known them (over 18 years!!), in their downtown business and in the neighborhood. If you are in their way, they do not treat you kindly. As usual the city is weak in the knees because these people own a long time business downtown and I’m sure they are using that angle to their benefit.
    We have fantasies of the Hillcrest apt. crumbling to the ground so that we would have MORE sun and privacy, but it isn’t going to happen, so we make the best of our situation! I’m still trying to figure out what view they could have possibly had before…Treasures and memories are really in the inner sanctum of one’s mind and that’s all we really have in the end…I suggest these people go on a Buddhist retreat while you guys finish with the building of your house!!

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  13. If they have been enjoying that view for 35 years, then it is past time for them to quit hogging and share it. I’m sorry that your neighbors are putting you and your family through this garbage. Building a house is never an easy road, even without people like that sticking their oar in. I am certain that with community support, you will prevail.

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