MILLCREEK — Residents in one Millcreek neighborhood are upset after a 37-foot blue warehouse went up just feet away from several homes, blocking the area’s view of Mount Olympus.
One of those residents is Scott Brown, who moved into the area a few years ago.
“In the evenings you get the alpine glow of the sunset off the peaks,” Brown said. “And in the morning, you get the sunrise.”
Brown knew he had the view when he moved into his Millcreek home and said he remembers seeing it when he first toured the home more than two and a half years ago.
“That’s when I looked at my realtor and said, ‘This is where I want to live,’” he said. And checking out the view quickly became a part of his morning routine. “When I would walk out, this is where I had that unobstructed view of Mount Olympus.”
But Brown never dreamed he would ever lose it.
“It wasn’t there the morning before and then all of the sudden it was,” he said, speaking of the building that now sits feet away from his home. “I was devastated.”
He first noticed the sound of construction on the other side of his fence over Labor Day weekend. The morning after the holiday, he looked out at his usual spot only to see a metal frame in the way.
“You could see through the framework, the mountains,” he remembers. “That’s what I knew I was going to be losing.”
More than a month later, a 37-foot tall blue warehouse now obstructs not only Brown’s view but several of his neighbors’ view of Mount Olympus.
In a statement on Facebook, Millcreek Planning Director Francis Lilly admitted the city had made an error in approving the building permit.
“I can’t stress enough how sorry we are for this error, and we are using this situation as a learning experience as a staff,” Lilly said.
According to the city, the property the building sits on was zoned for both commercial and multi-family use, something Lilly said the city and the property owner were not initially aware of.
“It was a surprise to everyone in the room, that this neighborhood was actually immediately adjacent to commercial and multifamily zoning, on which this new building sits, and that this zoning allows for taller buildings along 3300 South,” the statement continued.
Brown and several other neighbors called the city in the beginning stages of construction to ask about what was going on.
After learning about the building, the city re-examined the permit and, according to Lilly, “discovered deficiencies in the applicant’s submittal – essentially, information was missing. I have no reason to believe that the applicant misled us, only that they erred in preparing that information and we erred on the basis of their incomplete plan.”
The city issued a stop-work order, putting a temporary hold on construction and officials spoke with the property owner and city attorney.
“In the end, we hired a land-use attorney to look at the facts of the situation, and we were advised by him that requiring the building to be torn down or rebuilt would likely not be upheld in a court if the owner were to sue the city,” Lilly said. “I did everything I could do in my limited power to get that building moved or changed significantly, but in the end, we had to lift the stop-work order and let the project proceed as it was presented in the plans because we are legally required to.”
Lilly said the city is talking to the property owner, Dewey’s Bail Bonds, about changing the color of the building and the surrounding landscape “to help make that building less onerous.”
Brown acknowledged the city has “verbalized a desire to work with us, to find a solution.” Now, he’s trying to figure out how to move forward.
“Nobody says I want to buy that house because there’s a giant warehouse behind it,” Brown said.
Brown knew he had the view, and now he knows he’ll likely never get it back. And that’s been a struggle.
“I don’t come out on my back porch right now. It’s that frustrating I just don’t want to go out there and see it,” he said. “Every time I look at it, I remember what I used to have and now I don’t.”