Variance Board Approves Addition At Battery Place "Sow's Ear"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The City Variance Board on Wednesday approved an addition at an apartment complex at historic Battery Place, though several neighbors objected to further altering the "sow's ear."

Jack McDonald, who lives next door to the complex at 525 Battery Place, said, "It was an is a sow's ear. This project is just making it a bigger sow's ear."

But Joseph V. Martin said owner Dr. Stephen V. Dreskin is converting the apartments into condos and making the building more attractive.

He said there would be the same 10 units and no additional bedrooms, but some 7,000 of new space was needed to be added to make the new floor plan work. The building, which drops down a bluff over 100 feet to near the Tennessee River, already has almost 15,000 square feet.

Mr. McDonald said when he moved to the neighborhood in 1983 there was an old brick home there with a large hole in the roof. He said he was unable to buy the old house, and it was torn down and replaced by the current building.

He said, "It was poorly constructed and is totally out of character with the historic neighborhood."

Darryl Silvey, who has lived at Battery Place for three decades, said, "This monstrosity ought to be bulldozed into the river - except it would pollute the river."

He added, "We are told they are adding 7,000 square feet and there will not be more people there - ha! ha!"

Mary Portera, who lives next door also, also expressed concerns.

Mr. Martin, who was accompanied by designer Happy Baker, said the apartments are now mainly occupied by college students and the new tenants will be "better quality" condo owners.

He said the project had been approved by the Historic Zoning Commission.

He said one neighbor, Jim Kennedy, welcomes the project.

Mr. Martin said, "Frankly, I don't understand the opposition. We are trying to do something extraordinary for the neighborhood."

The request was for a variance on a setback requirement on one end from 25 feet to four feet. It actually is already at 11 feet from the line at Lindsay Street.

The project will add eight feet to the structure on that end and four feet on the west end, which does not need a variance.

The request was approved by a vote of 5-3. Chairman Jim Hyatt was not required there was a majority already.

Jim Bob Wilson made the recommendation for approval, saying he felt it was an upgrading of the property.

He noted that with the area now being an official historic district "this kind of project would never have gotten off the ground in your neighborhood" had that been the case in the early 1980s.

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