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Contractor may have to remove deck with a view

A deck overlooking Rhododendron Lake Nature Park may have to be removed because it’s too close to the property line, Laurel Park officials say.

LAUREL PARK — An apartment building owner may be forced to remove a deck overlooking Rhododendron Lake Nature Park because the structure violates Laurel Park’s zoning rules.

Cabot Young, a contractor who is renovating the Lakeshore Apartments at 16 Lake Drive, acknowledged in an interview that the deck is out of compliance.
“I built that deck not knowing really that I shouldn’t build it there,” he said. “I’ve been doing everything thing I can to get that (apartment) building repaired and looking well. If I move the deck I just have to build a fence around it. It doesn’t make any sense to remove the deck. I’m from Maryville, Tennessee. We built decks wherever we wanted basically.”
The Laurel Park Town Council discussed the zoning violation at a work session earlier this month and directed Town Manager Christopher Todd to hire a surveyor to get precise numbers on the deck and property line. The deck, which Young put up without obtaining a building permit, is near the property line. Under the town’s zoning code, it should be set back 25 feet from the boundary.
“Because it’s a setback we have limited ability to do an easement,” Todd said. “We either sell them the land or they’re not going to have enough room. It’s not a hardship and it’s likely a variance would not be granted.”
Council member Paul Hansen asked whether the town could just “look the other way.”
“The best answer I can give you is we became aware of an ordinance violation and we should proceed on it appropriately,” Todd said. “Likely the whole thing” has to go. “In my opinion, the deck itself could not exist in any shape, form or fashion.”
The town’s options seemed to come down to either selling Young the land to come into compliance with the 25-foot setback requirement or ordering the deck removed. If the town sold the land, it would then have a private citizen owning a small piece of a public park, including the walking path. The town would need to negotiate a right-of-way agreement to preserve public use of the walking trail.
Council members opposed selling park land to allow the zoning compliance.
“I think we have to write a nice letter and say unfortunately you have to take the deck out,” Hansen said.