A homeowner must demolish a brick pavilion built without permits, the city of Sandy Springs has ordered after hearing about it from a neighbor’s complaint that the structure blocked a view of the Dunwoody County Club.
Joanne Black, the homeowner at 606 Old Cobblestone Drive, had the 13-by-13-foot backyard pavilion built nearly a year ago without a required permit and zoning variance. In a 4-2 vote on April 13, the city Board of Appeals declined to legalize it. Black’s attorneys say a legal appeal is possible, but could cost as much as the pavilion itself: $20,000 to $25,000.
“Allowing this structure to remain won’t cause any harm,” Hadeel Masseoud, one of Black’s attorney’s, argued to the board. “Tearing it down would be a great endeavor causing a lot of waste.”
Board member Colin Lichtenstein was not convinced there was a hardship in losing a structure whose main physical function was providing shade.
“Wouldn’t an umbrella serve the same purpose?” he asked.
The approximately 2-acre property at 606 Old Cobblestone, bordering the country club’s golf course, includes a house, a swimming pool and a clubhouse. The brick pavilion was part of an improvement project that included a patio, a fire pit and a horseshoe pit.
The city learned of the structure in March from neighbors’ complaints of unpermitted construction and issued a stop-work order. One emailed complaint said the pavilion was built without notice to the community’s homeowners association, and, along with tree plantings and other work, “obstructed our view of the golf course.”
The neighbor later withdrew the objection, but the city’s planning staff remained unconvinced. The pavilion violated zoning by standing 15 feet from the property line in an area with a 50-foot limit due to the requirements of setback rules and a stream buffer.
Black did not speak at the hearing. Diana Parks Curran, another attorney for Black, said her client “inadvertently” built the pavilion without a permit or zoning variance due to confusion about the property’s “agricultural” zoning designation — an outdated category the city is eliminating in a zoning code rewrite.
Curran and Masseoud noted the property’s irregular shape results in construction being barred on an unusually high percentage of its lawn. Requirements for a back-up septic system field leave much of the site unbuildable, and the area where the pavilion stands comes to a sharp point with overlapping setbacks.
Board chair Ted Sandler, one of the two votes to allow the pavilion to remain, was sympathetic to the situation. “This is something that I can’t say I’ve ever seen before,” he said of the large limits on land use caused by the septic requirements.
But most other board members agreed with planning staff that the limits didn’t meet the definition of a hardship. With the pool, club house and patio still remaining, the “applicant has reasonable use of the area for entertainment purposes without the pavilion,” a staff memo said.