Sunset Hills aldermen OK rezoning to convert Rott School to residence

Petition signed by 47 people opposes request to rezone lot

By Gloria Lloyd

Despite objections from prospective neighbors in the Tapawingo neighborhood, a Sunset Hills man won his residential rezoning bid and can proceed with a plan to turn a historic school into his family’s home.

On the bill’s second reading April 23, the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen voted 5-3 to approve the rezoning, with Ward 1 Aldermen Richard Gau and Dee Baebler and Ward 2 Alderman Thomas Musich voting against the measure.

For the bill’s first reading, the rezoning was approved 5-4, with Gau, Baebler, Musich and Ward 4 Alderman Patricia Fribis opposed. Mayor Bill Nolan broke the tie and voted in favor of the rezoning.

Local developer Anthony Garavaglia told the board that he bought the former Rott School, at 9455 Rott Road, for $275,000 in 2011.

He always planned to renovate the school as his family’s home and said he has received compliments from residents on his upkeep of the home, which was formerly “derelict,” he said.

The school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Garavaglia has been approved for historic renovation tax credits from the state.

That plan would not require any approval from the Board of Aldermen. However, Garavaglia has an offer from a prospective buyer for two of the lot’s three acres. The buyer plans to build a single-family house on each of those acres.

The property has a setback of 27 feet, which does not meet existing residential zoning requirements. The property is currently grandfathered as a “lawful nonconforming use,” but subdividing the property means the new lots must conform to the city’s regulations.

Garavaglia’s sale of the two lots is contingent on the zoning reapproval to R-2 residential, under which his current setback and the final lot size of 0.9 acre is legal.

“They are ready to build, and I am ready to make major improvements to the exterior (of the school) as soon as I have the funds (from the sale),” Garavaglia said. “I think everybody’s chomping at the bit.”

The full renovation of the school is contingent on selling his current home, Garavaglia added.

More than two-thirds of the adjoining lots are in the Tapawingo development.

A Tapawingo neighbor whose property directly adjoins the Rott School property, Mike Morris, submitted a petition with signatures from 47 nearby residents who oppose the zoning change.

“Everybody (in Tapawingo) moved here because it is what it is: these acre lots are a source of pride, pleasure and privacy,” said Morris, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade. “It would make 47 neighbors happy to not rezone it.”

Although Morris pointed out that the surrounding properties had lots of at least an acre, City Engineer Bryson Baker said some of the surrounding properties were smaller than an acre.

The Tapawingo lots may officially be less than an acre, Morris said, but they appear larger since they back up to a golf course.