Members of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association attended a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in July to accuse Chalfant of using his power as a public figure to get favors from the city government in relation to his work as a general contractor, and the residents attended the council meeting to repeat their accusations. Chalfant denies the claims. Complaints against Chalfant revolve around two homes the councilman is remodeling in the Forest
Hills neighborhood, located off of Marietta Parkway, which were built in violation of city code but later approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals. Now that Chalfant has variances for his properties, they are allowed to remain as built.
Members of the association spoke at the meeting because they wanted to make their concerns about the homes known to the council, said Diane Carter, vice president of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association.
Yet Chalfant said the council could not take any action on the issues the residents have.
Sarah Kruger, who lives on Hunt Street, which is beside one home Chalfant is remodeling, spoke at the meeting Wednesday.
“We’re not pleased with his performance as a leader in the city government,” Kruger said.
Chalfant maintained that his buildings were built outside of city code as a result of a mistake, not a favor.
“I’m not sure what (the residents speaking at the meeting) were trying to do,” Chalfant said.
The Forest Hills Neighborhood Association previously spoke against Chalfant at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on July 28.
At that meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted Chalfant two variances to allow homes he was remodeling to stand, even though they were built too high and too close to neighboring houses, according to city code.
Kruger said she wasn’t satisfied with the approval of the variances.
“(The Board of Zoning Appeal’s) reason (for granting the variance) was ... the city made a mistake, we’re going to approve the variances, which, to us, is a very poor representation of the city,” Kruger said.
Another resident, Joanne Wood, who lives on Vance Circle in the neighborhood, said she wanted to let the city know this situation proved their system for approving building plans was not working.
“The variance process should exist for justifiable exceptions, not as a forgiveness process for incompetence and error,” Wood said. “The city is not doing its job and the process is broken.”
Mayor Steve Tumlin and the other council members sat quietly while residents denounced Chalfant. Tumlin thanked each resident for speaking, and Doug Haynie, the city’s attorney, once interrupted applause in response to one resident’s speech, saying applause and expressions of approval or dismissal are not allowed from the audience.
Carter said at the meeting that the members of the group would remember Chalfant’s actions come election time.
“We want to go on the record just to let the City Council know how important this is to our city and to our community. They are the ones who appoint the Board of Zoning Appeals,” Carter said.
One variance Chalfant was granted in July allowed the home on Hunt Street to stand higher than the code allows. Chalfant’s building is 41.5 feet high, which is 6.5 feet higher than the limit of 35 feet.
The variance also allowed for the house to be closer to the neighboring house than is normally allowed. Chalfant said the houses are supposed to be five feet apart, but his house is within two feet of the neighboring property line.
A second variance allowed the home on North Forest Street to have an attached carport that he did not specify he was going to add in one portion of the plans.
Haynie said everything Chalfant did was in compliance with the law, and residents could not file a successful ethics complaint.
Carter said she knows she can’t change what has been done, but she wanted her concerns on the record. In the future, she plans to garner enough support to vote Chalfant out of his position on the council, she said.