Vallerie’s fifth variance request denied by the zoning board

Mike Vallerie has been denied a variance to allow him to build an exterior staircase to the second story of a building at his Pleasants Landing at Lake Anna property. File photo

The Louisa County Board of Zoning Appeals denied Mike Vallerie’s fifth attempt at a variance that would allow him to legally build an exterior staircase to the second story of a building at his Pleasants Landing at Lake Anna property. 

Vallerie has sought to legalize the staircase for the past five years. Several times this year, board members were absent at meetings. On at least two occasions, Vallerie applied for a variance and then withdrew his application because not enough members were present. He wanted all seven members to be at the meeting because he hoped that four would vote in his favor. A vote on a variance requires at least four members to be present.  

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors recently appointed alternate members to help ensure a healthy turnout of zoning board members. With alternate member Ed Kube present at the Dec. 15 meeting to replace Ray Lacy, the board finally had seven members voting. 

The staircase issue came about because Vallerie wanted to use the building for both commercial and residential purposes. The residential area would be located on the second story and would require a staircase for access. Rather than constructing an interior staircase, he hoped for an exterior option to allow for more room on the first floor for a potential ice cream shop. 

The current location of the exterior entrance to the second floor would not allow for the staircase because it would be located partially within the county's five-foot building setback line and on a strip of property owned by Dominion Energy adjoining the lake.

According to Dominion External Affairs Manager Sarah Marshall, the company has the ability to raise the water levels as they see necessary which is why the normal 250-foot water level and the five-foot setback were created in the first place. They were established to ensure the safety of residents whose properties sat closer to the shoreline than others.  

When Vallerie purchased the property in 2015, there were no stairs on site. He had since built a staircase without permit and had cut a portion of the deck off to appease the setback ordinance set by Dominion. Because he chose the location of the stairs himself, his request was viewed, by definition, as a  “self-inflicted hardship.”

“The Supreme Court, going back as far as 1959, has said the board should also keep it forth the established rule that self-inflicted hardship deliberately or ignorantly incurred affords no basis for special treatment under zoning regulations,” said Louisa County Assistant County Attorney Sean Hutson. 

He also said there were other ways Vallerie could have access to the second story without the current staircase such as moving the exterior entryway to ensure it does not reach the five foot setback. 

Vallerie did not want to move the location of the current deck as he would not be able to see the stage for security purposes.

Vallerie's lawyer Clark Leming appeared before the board on his behalf and said, “He put the staircase up, at the time, he thought in good faith.” 

Leming mentioned Vallerie was under the impression he would be able to put up the staircase as long as it did not impede into the setback. Vallerie cut off a portion of the deck to ensure it does not intrude into Dominion's property, but it still sits illegally within the five-foot setback.

After hearing both sides to the case, Joe Leslie moved to deny the variance. He was seconded by Juanita Jo Matkins. In a 6 to 1 vote, the variance was denied. Susan Fletcher opposed the denial. 

Last updated Dec. 23 at 1:54 p.m.

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