Zone variance denied for lawyer's office on residential block of Christine Ave.
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Oct 18, 2013 | 4234 views |  0 comments | 80 80 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)
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The Anniston Zoning Board on Thursday night denied a variance for a law practice to operate in a residential area on Christine Avenue.

Despite paving a parking lot, installing a handicap ramp and building a fence around his property at 1505 Christine Ave., Doug Mooneyham was denied his application request to continue operating out of the house in a largely residential area by a unanimous vote.

Although the property is located in a two-block area of Christine Avenue between 14th and 16th streets that’s a designated historical residential area, Mooneyham was given permission in writing last September to operate his law practice from the house. Mooneyham said the city issued him permits based on misinformation from Anniston City Planner Toby Bennington.

Bennington declined to talk about the matter after the meeting Thursday.

Mooneyham’s law practice had caught the ire of some of his neighbors, many of whom came to the meeting Thursday night to ask the board to deny his request for a variance.

“We can’t sit in our patio in the back or sit on our porch in the front,” said Barbara St. Germaine, complaining that the parking lot on the property was touching her yard in the house she had lived in since 1969. “We can’t even see out of our driveway because of the fence he built, and that’s dangerous.”

C.K. Hughley, who said her children walked barefoot on Christine Avenue and played in all of her neighbors’ yards, said the business compromised the character of the neighborhood she calls home.

“Mr. Mooneyham has investment, that is true,” Hughley said. “But what about our investment? It is not our fault he got misinformation.”

Despite the large neighborhood turnout, Mooneyham said the only residents who had spoken to him since he purchased the property in September 2012 were the St. Germaines. Mooneyham said Barbara told him in December the neighborhood was not a business zone, but by then he had already completed the parking lot. He said the only other change to the property after that was a fence he built on request from the city. He said he had permits for all the building changes.

Mooneyham said he did not understand most of the complaints lodged at him from other residents, and said five businesses, as well as two apartment complexes were in walking distance of the neighborhood, including a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant.

After the meeting, Mooneyham said he did not know if he would appeal the decision.

One of Mooneyham’s neighbors, Beebe Chappell, did not speak during the meeting, but said afterwards when she bought the house across the street from Mooneyham’s law practice in 2012, she was told by the seller she could have a business in the location. Chappell said while she did not want to voice her opinion at the meeting, she felt the law practice had enhanced the look of the neighborhood and made it a more attractive area.

“It’s a lot better than what could have gone there,” she said.

David Cunningham, a board member who made the motion to deny Mooneyham’s request, said Mooneyham’s next course of action would be to ask the city to recoup the expenses he put into the property.

“It’s unfortunate the city did not give him the correct information,” Cunningham said. “That isn’t his fault that he put an incredible investment into the property.”

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

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