Architects and builders originally received permission from the city and state in October 2010 to build a new home, driveway, retaining walls, decks, porches and utilities at the address — per the submitted plan.
According to City Planner Kristin Keery, a “miscommunication” occurred in January when the builder and architect came into the city’s Building Department to discuss code-related issues pertaining to a retaining wall, which was proposed for the development and planned to be constructed along the front property line.
She said most of the discussion focused on the height of the retaining wall, which was proposed at approximately 7 feet and approved.
During the March meeting, Keery said it was not pointed out that the applicant was proposing a change to the configuration of the retaining wall.
There is now a 7-foot-high wall around the property and the Planning Commission is deciding on whether or not to approve an amendment to the plan that would allow the new wall as it’s currently constructed.
Chuck Posthumus — the project architect and who was representing the Jackoboices, who own the property — said the changes made to the wall aren’t significantly different than what was originally approved by the city.
“It’s a very well-constructed wall and very handsome in its nature,” Posthumus said.
While the majority of the Planning Commission said needed more time to decide, Highland Park neighbors had already made up their mind.
Bill Weideman, 100 Poplar Ridge, said that with the historic nature of the homes in the Highland Park area, building the wall was like destroying a national landmark.
“It’s like putting a McDonald’s next to the Washington Monument,” he said.
Maryann Donahue, president of the Highland Park Association, said the “Highland Drive site is a very important road to us.” Her concerns, she said, included the safety of a 7-foot-tall wall.
Donahue, who lives at 51 Crescent Hill, and her husband, Tom, said although developers are calling it a retaining wall, the structure is really a fence.
“It’s definitely a fence and it’s definitely offensive,” Tom Donahue said.
Lisa Peters, 1414 Lake Ave., said she likes the home that was constructed on the site, but has issues with the wall.
“My husband and I entered a letter of support in October, but there was nothing that ever indicated it would be a wall of this magnitude,” she said.
Peters said some original concepts she saw had the front lawn terracing down to the street level.
Keery said if the amended wall permit is not approved by the Planning Commission, the permit approved in October 2010 would be put into effect. Assuming no court action was taken or further amendments were made, builders would likely be required to tear down the wall and build what was approved last year, she added.
The Planning Commission will take up the wall issue again during its June 14 meeting.