The Winona City Board of Adjustment upheld the controversial 30 percent rule Tuesday when it denied a variance request sought by Frank Baures. Baures petitioned for the varience in order to rent out his parents' Center Street home that is in an area already over the 30 percent limit of rental properties. Baures' request was the first to come to the board since a citizen lawsuit was filed against the city in October 2011 over the rule, which limits the number of rental properties allowed on a block to 30 percent of the total properties.
The home, owned by Baures' aging parents, who are currently in assisted living, has been for sale for two years and the asking price dropped nearly $20,000. Because the home shares a driveway with the neighbor, a home rented out to several college students, Baures said the home won't sell.
"A lot of people who have been through the home see that their backyard would be a big parking lot," Baures said. "Some of the families are concerned about the traffic their kids might encounter. I feel the property would stand a better chance of selling if it were zoned as a rental."
Board of Adjustment Chair Chris Sanchez asked the board to divorce itself from the emotional aspect of the case and examine the request according to variance request guidelines.
The board agreed that the request was in harmony with the intent of the 30 percent rule and the property would be used in a reasonable manner. However, board members voted to deny the request, saying it would be in violation of the rental ordinance because the home is in a neighborhood that is already 69 percent rentals.
"It is my understanding that the 30 percent rule is trying to keep homeowner influence in the neighborhood," board member Laura Priem said. "It does make a difference in a neighborhood when families are kept in their homes. Because of that, I think this request could contribute to further character changing in the neighborhood."
Board members David Kouba and Mario Einsman expressed their concern for Baures and said the rule should better accommodate special situations.
Baures, who plans to appeal the decision, has ten days to file with the city clerk to bring his case to the City Council for final approval.
Winona City Planner Mark Moeller said a handful of variance requests have been filed since the 30 percent rule was enacted seven years ago;, however, none have been granted. Moeller said if this request goes before the City Council and is granted, it could set in motion a filing of more variance requests by other homeowners in similar situations.