Mahoning Township resident, at the request of the Township Zoning Officer LeRoy Leibenguth, appeared before the supervisors to get an understanding on measuring building height according to the new amendments to the township's zoning ordinance and learned that he would not need a variance after all.
Township resident Jerry Zelinsky told supervisors he was constructing a garage on his property which would be surrounded on three sides by a mountain requiring him to build a nine foot foundation wall to act as a bearing wall against the weight of the mountain.
"Originally the zoning officer said that I would need a variance if he rejects the zoning permit for the garage because the building height exceeded the ordinance, but I pointed out the first nine feet were poured concrete foundation walls and while the fourth side would be where the doors for the garage are, they were essentially in the basement," Zelinsky said. He pointed out the actual sill plate would be on top of the nine foot wall, and if the measurement was from there the building would be 15 feet tall and within the guidelines.
Solicitor Tom Nanovic told supervisors that this was unusual in that the standard practice was for the zoning officer to make a ruling and if the petitioner disagreed they should go to the zoning board, not the supervisors. "You really are not supposed to go around that process, but if LeRoy is seeking direction on his interpretation of the law, it is okay for him to ask you. So the real question is, does LeRoy need guidance or did he make his decision?"
Leibenguth was present at the meeting and told Nanovic it was his suggestion that Zelinsky come and ask the board as he was not really sure how to measure the building with the amended ordinance's requirements. "I asked him to come and ask you, because I wasn't sure."
Nanovic acknowledged that since Leibenguth needed help with interpretation it was proper for the board to answer his question. Supervisor Bruce Steigerwalt referred to the zoning ordinance, but the text had the original description of building height which would have disqualified Zelinsky's building. Secretary-Treasurer Natalie Haggerty retrieved a copy of the new amendments and gave it to Nanovic who read it to the board. In that document it clearly stated that the building should be measured from the sill plate to the highest point of the building or from the front of the building from the slab to the roof.
Zelinsky said the rear of the building was totally covered by the mountain up to the top of the nine foot foundation wall and only 15 feet above the ground would exist at the back of the building. The two sides would start at the nine foot mark and grade down toward the front of the building. He pointed out the sill plate mentioned in the ordinance would be at the top of the nine foot concrete walls.
With Nanovic's interpretation of the ordinance, Leibenguth said he had the information he needed and ruled that the building would be within the acceptable range of the building height requirement and was approved. Zelinsky would not need a hearing and his permit was approved.