Variance denied to split small lot with two homes

Published 8:52 am Saturday, January 27, 2024

The LaGrange City Council has unofficially denied a real estate investor’s request to split a small residential parcel because it would violate city code.

During the Jan. 23 council meeting, real estate investor Justin Piraino asked the council to allow him to subdivide a small property at 300 and one-half Horace King Street that has two separate residential dwellings.

City Planner Mark Kostial said they had previously spoken with Piraino and told him that there was no way that the property could be legally subdivided because of its size. The property is only 5,200 square feet in total (0.119 acres). Splitting the parcel in any way would leave one below the minimum lot size of 3,000 square feet for residential zoning.

City code also specifically forbids variances allowing for lot sizes below zoning restrictions.

If the parcel was split evenly, the new lot sizes would be exceedingly small, 2,600 square feet or about 0.06 acres.

Kostial noted that residential lot size minimums were lowered with the new UDO to 3,000 square feet. Under the previous development regulations, the smallest a residential lot could be was 4,000 square feet.

Piraino said that he purchased the property along with three others but has since learned that he cannot subdivide the property. He said he intended to split the houses, renovate them and either sell or rent them individually.

Piraino said many of the homes in the area are similarly constructed with two residences on one lot, including another that he invested in.

Now that those plans have fallen through, Piraino indicated that he is stuck because his money is tied up in the property.

“The banks aren’t willing to refinance me out, so I’ve got all my money stuck there. I can’t do anything about these properties because I can’t subdivide them,” Piraino said, asking the council to help him subdivide the property.

During the council meeting, Kostial again explained to Piraino that the city code is very clear as it relates to the issuing variances.

LaGrange Municipal Code 25B-55-9(h)(2)(c) states that no variance shall be authorized to reduce, waive or modify in any manner the minimum lot area established by the zoning ordinance in any zoning district.

Piraino said he understands but claimed that there are many homes in the area that have the same issue, which he had planned to buy and remodel but the constraints have made him reconsider investing in LaGrange.

“I was offered over 100 properties in LaGrange, which has made me reconsider things,” Piraino said. “If I’m going to have issues with buying properties, refinancing them now and doing things like that, why reinvest?”

Councilman Jim Arrington noted that even if he cannot subdivide the lot, it doesn’t mean he can’t renovate the houses and rent them.

Piraino said that the banks aren’t willing to refinance the property to fund the renovation because it’s two houses. He said if it was a duplex they would.

“The banks are not going to refinance me out. I don’t have the money to put into it and get my money back, so I can walk to the next project, to the next house and bring it up in value and then re-rent it,” Piraino said. “That’s the issue. If I could get my money back, 100 percent I wouldn’t be here.”

Kostial said Piraino did not do his due diligence before purchasing the property, otherwise, he would have known he could not subdivide it, noting that he recently had a similar conversation with another investor who verified another lot was big enough to subdivide.

Mayor Willie Edmondson suggested to Piraino to return to his bank and see what he can work out with them because the current ordinance does not allow the change he is requesting but the council will look at it during their annual retreat.

No official vote was taken on the request.

In other business the council:

4 Approved separate ordinance to annex, rezone and amend the Comprehensive Plan Character Area Map for seven parcels located on Hamilton Road adjacent to Sam Walker Drive and Vulcan Material Road.

4 Authorized the mayor and clerk to execute an intergovernmental agreement regarding public safety responsibilities related to the annexation of approximately 67.3 acres of

property adjacent to Hamilton Road.

4  Authorized the mayor and clerk to execute an intergovernmental agreement regarding water and sewer extension to the LaGrange-Callaway Airport.