July 20, 2023 – In the normally quiet Golf Hill neighborhood, tempers are flaring as angry neighbors are voicing their strong opposition to the approval for a zoning variance that will allow for the construction of an above-ground pool on a hilltop lot next door to their properties. The dispute has intensified due to a conflict in recommendations from city planning officials and the ultimate decision of the Board of Variances.
The hilltop lot in question, 908 Golf Hill Drive, owned by Jamon and Katie Andresean has become the epicenter of a heated confrontation. During the meeting, two neighbors spoke out against allowing the variance. Aaron Hagan of 905 Forest Drive spoke first and expressed concern that a failure of the pool lining could send “30,000 gallons of chlorinated water” through his back door. Hagan, who lives directly downhill from the site of the proposed pool said he also had doubts that the retaining wall that separates the two yards could withstand the added weight and potential flooding. Ivan Hammon of 900 Bell Drive also spoke out against the variance, supporting Hagan, and stated that given the slope of the land and the lack of storm drains, there was no good way to drain the pool, even for regular maintenance.
Citing their recent inspection of the site, city planning officials also raised concerns about the complications of drainage issues on the lot, arguing that the variance should not be granted to allow for the construction of the above-ground pool. However, to the dismay of the neighbors, the zoning board unanimously approved the variance, overriding the official recommendation.
The ordinance, specifically Section 545.040 of the Excelsior Springs City Code, pertains to swimming pools and their placement in the R-1 Single-Family Residential District. It states that swimming pools are not allowed to extend beyond the front building line. If a pool is located on the side yard, it must be positioned at least 60 feet from the front right-of-way and at least 15 feet from the sideline. These setback requirements ensure proper spacing between the pool and neighboring properties. The variance granted to the Andreasen family gives them permission to build a pool with a 30-foot setback from the front right-of-way.
A recording of the meeting, indicated that at one point a board member asked City Planning Consultant, Doug Hermes, “If not for the variance, would the drainage even be a consideration for a pool?” Hermes answered, “If a variance was not requested, and not needed, and the applicant was able to meet the current city standards, to put in a pool. Drainage, as we described would not be in question.” It was at this point that the discussion turned to whether or not the board should base decisions on factors that otherwise would not be considered.
Board member Tray Harkins said, “I can only speak for myself, but my rationale for the decision was that… our job as a board isn’t to prove or disprove the safety of anything. That’s not in our purview to do that, and aside from the setback, the homeowner still has to meet every guideline that the city requires to put in a swimming pool.”
In the aftermath of the zoning board’s decision, tensions escalated even further when some of the disgruntled neighbors took to social media platforms to express their anger and frustration. The board members who gave the approval of the variance became the primary targets of their wrath but threats extended to anyone who questioned the situation.
At this time, it remains unclear how the situation will be resolved, or if the neighbors will seek alternative solutions, but it is evident that finding common ground and respecting the decisions of local governing bodies, while operating within the law is vital to maintaining the peace and harmony of the community.
Update 8/3/23, 2:00pm: Since publishing the article, we have heard from neighbors Mike and Brenda Kelley, who live next door to the Andreasens, who wanted to express their support for the project and let us know there are other neighbors who give their support, too, but were unable to be at the meeting.