Zoning variance granted to Buford official ‘defies logic,’ neighbor says

Exterior of Buford City Hall in Buford on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Caption
Exterior of Buford City Hall in Buford on Tuesday, August 28, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

An elected official in Buford will be allowed to place a new home on a lot one-fourth the size normally permitted under existing zoning regulations, to the dismay of at least one neighbor.

Buford’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted during a Monday meeting to allow Brad Weeks, a city commissioner who took office in 2018, to reduce building setbacks, lot area and lot width for a 9,800-square-foot property wedged between Sudderth and Morgan streets in the downtown area.

The property, already noncompliant with regulations, will be subdivided into two tracts. Each tract will be less than 5,000 square feet, as opposed to the normally required 20,000 square feet.

The AJC investigated Buford’s power dynamics in 2018, at which time ethics experts questioned the city’s governing structure. Weeks serves on the three-member City Commission alongside his uncle, Phillip Beard, who has served as chairman of the city’s governing body and school board for more than 40 years.

The commission appoints the individuals on the Zoning Board of Appeals that granted the variances to Weeks on Monday.

The AJC investigation found that the uncle and nephew have each voted on zoning, land transaction and personnel issues to which the other had a business or personal connection.

Weeks declined to take questions from an AJC reporter on Monday after the zoning decision.

There is currently one home on Weeks’ property facing Sudderth Street. Weeks, the president of a property management company, intends to place a second home on the property facing Morgan Street. He told board members the variances would make it easier to maintain the property.

Andy Littig, a resident building a home at the end of Morgan Street across from Weeks’ property, told board members that he’s concerned about another home at the end of his narrow street. He’s also worried that variances will allow stormwater to run down a slope toward his home.

“This defies logic,” Littig told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution while outside his future residence.

Littig said he purchased the property under the assumption that he’d face a neighbor’s backyard, not someone’s front door. The neighborhood currently consists of small single-family homes.

The resident told board members at the Monday hearing that the variance requests would drastically change the character of the area, to which Weeks replied, “That’s what I’m going for.”

All but one member of the five-person board voted in favor of the variance requests. Dwayne Cash, the lone dissenter, said he was uncomfortable with the lot size and worried it could set a precedent for future requests.

City Manager Bryan Kerlin said during the meeting that the property’s frontage along two streets gave Weeks’ case uniqueness and wouldn’t set a precedent. Weeks will make improvements to Morgan Street as a condition to the variances, which board members said made them comfortable granting them.

“Correct me if I’m wrong. You guys on the City Commission voted to do this, to prevent overbuilding in the city, making it a 20,000-square-foot (lot) requirement,” Cash said before the vote.

“I think that’s what y’all are for, to vary on what we have done,” Weeks said in response.

Caption
Buford Commissioner Bradley W. Weeks participates during the final Buford City Commission meeting of the year at the Buford City Hall building in Buford, Monday, December 3, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Buford Commissioner Bradley W. Weeks participates during the final Buford City Commission meeting of the year at the Buford City Hall building in Buford, Monday, December 3, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Caption
Buford Commissioner Bradley W. Weeks participates during the final Buford City Commission meeting of the year at the Buford City Hall building in Buford, Monday, December 3, 2018. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

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