Too tall? Developers seek height exception for apartment complex

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors will wait until March 3 to decide the fate of a partially constructed Carrollton apartment complex, which the county contends has exceeded the maximum height allowed for its zoning.

Its developers, Jerry and Lucy Kooiman, had received the board’s approval in December 2018 for urban residential zoning to permit the construction of a three-story, 12-unit multifamily building on Sugar Hill Road.

According to county officials, the Kooimans received approval for plans listing the building’s height at 34.5 feet, just under the 35-foot maximum allowed. But they’ve since built a 37.25-foot building, putting the roof 2.25 feet over the limit.

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With construction now paused, the Kooimans have applied for an exception to the height rule, though Lucy contends county staff “reviewed, approved and stamped” subsequent, more detailed plans that estimated the building’s height at 36.4 feet when issuing the project’s building permits.

“I think that needs to be honored,” she told the board at its Feb. 17 meeting.

County Attorney Bobby Jones, however, cited Section 1-1012 of Isle of Wight’s county code, which states permits are to be issued “only when they are in harmony with the provisions” of the zoning ordinance, and that any permits “if issued in conflict” with the ordinance “shall be null and void.”

With the building’s framing complete and windows installed, anything other than granting the height exception “would financially ruin us,” Lucy said.

Jerry then estimated redoing the roof at a lower height would cost him $75,000 to $80,000.

“When the bank gets a hold of this information, all bets are off,” he told the board. “They’re going to stop funding the project … This project has been idle for a month. We’ve had to send 23 guys home, and they’re ready to go back to work.”

Supervisor Don Rosie, however, was disinclined to grant the exception, as was the county’s Planning Commission, which voted unanimously at its Jan. 25 meeting to recommend the Kooimans’ application be denied.

“If you start making exception after exception after exception, you really don’t need that ordinance,” Rosie said.

Supervisor Joel Acree added that the board’s vote would be “setting precedence for the next person.”

The Kooimans have come to the board seeking after-the-fact permissions and exceptions before.

In November 2018, they increased the impervious cover at their Carrollton home by 1,250 square feet to widen their driveway, then applied for an after-the-fact exception to provisions of the county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation ordinance while also seeking permission to build a 256-square-foot garden shed. That application was granted.

Then, in 2019, county staff discovered the Kooimans had constructed a two-bedroom apartment in their basement that they’d been marketing as a short-term rental. The Kooimans again appeared before the board to seek after-the-fact permitting, but that time were denied.