Attorney appeals zoning decision, saying city gave him OK
by Brian Anderson
Oct 28, 2013 | 3573 views |  0 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This former residential dwelling on Christine Avenue in Anniston now holds a lawyer's office. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
This former residential dwelling on Christine Avenue in Anniston now holds a lawyer's office. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
An Anniston attorney is appealing a decision by a city board to deny him permission to build a parking lot and operate a law practice at a house on Christine Avenue – which he’s already done.

Doug Mooneyham, the owner of the building on 1505 Christine Ave., built the parking lot and has been using the former home as his law office for more than a year, after the city granted him permission to operate a business in the neighborhood, which is zoned for residential use.

Mooneyham filed his appeal of the Anniston Zoning Board of Adjustments’ decision in Calhoun County Circuit Court on Monday. Earlier this month, Mooneyham’s request for the variance was shot down at a public meeting where several residents of the neighborhood between 14th and 16th streets on Christine Avenue voiced their disapproval with Mooneyham’s law practice operating in a historically designated residential area.

The biggest concern of Mooneyham’s neighbors was a parking lot paved at the property in October 2012, which some residents said compromised the integrity of the neighborhood.

According to court documents made available online, Anniston City Planner Toby Bennington told Mooneyham before he purchased the property in September 2012 that the building was in a zone that allowed the law office. The appeal also claims that Mooneyham received city permits in October 2012 to pave the front and back yards as concrete parking lots, and further permits in January to construct a handicap ramp and a fence on the property. Mooneyham said the fence was suggested by Anniston Councilman Jay Jenkins to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk to which the lot extends.

Attempts Monday to reach Bennington, Mooneyham and Mooneyham’s attorneys David Marsh and Thomas Powell were unsuccessful.

Despite a turnout at the zoning meeting earlier this month of about a dozen residents of the neighborhood to ask the board to deny the variance, Mooneyham said at the meeting only one of his neighbors had talked to him about the property. By then, he had already obtained the permits and built the parking lot.

Mooneyham also said at the meeting his law office did not impact the neighborhood negatively, and noted two apartment complexes and several other businesses, including a Wendy’s restaurant, are within walking distance of the two-block residential area.

According to the appeal, Mooneyham bought the building in order to use it for his law practice.

In an email sent to Mooneyham on Feb. 18, a copy of which was filed with the suit, Bennington wrote that the property had been misidentified as in a business zone, and suggested the attorney apply for a variance despite the parking lot having been completed in October 2012.

“[I]t is known at the onset, that you did inquire to the city regarding the zoning of the property and you were provided an incorrect zoning designation,” the email said. “[I]t was determined that the official zoning map and the streets in question were incorrectly labeled and thusly led to the misidentification of the zoning category.”

The filed appeal claims the denied variance was not “contrary to public interest” and caused “unnecessary hardship, injustice, oppression, and arbitrary application” for Mooneyham.

After the zoning board meeting earlier this month, Mooneyham told a reporter he did not know if he’d appeal the decision.

David Cunningham, a member of the zoning board who made the motion to dismiss the request for a variance, said Mooneyham would likely have to go to the city in order to recoup the costs he put into the building.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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