LAFAYETTE -- Joe Polichio was planning on building his dream home. His neighbors said he was planning a monstrosity.
Now Polichio will have to plan the next stage of his fight to add a second story, and 1,800 square feet, to his Burton Valley home, off St. Marys Road in southeastern Lafayette.
The Lafayette Planning Commission on Dec. 6 rejected the proposed addition, saying the project had not been scaled back enough to make it compatible with other nearby residences.
Polichio said he will appeal the decision to the City Council.
The proposal sparked a debate between residents who said the house would tower over a neighborhood of mostly one-story homes and those who worried that denying the project would set a precedent that second-story additions are not welcome in Lafayette.
The home, at 623 Lucas Drive, would more than double in living area and be the first second-story residence in the immediate neighborhood.
The city's Design Review Commission approved the project on Sept. 13, but a pair of residents appealed that decision to the Planning Commission.
The commission on Oct. 18 upheld the appeal, denying the project, then two weeks later decided to give Polichio and his architect, Ken Hertel, one more chance to scale back the project.
Hertel shaved 139 square feet off the home's living area and lowered the roof by one foot, but told the council any additional reductions to the second story would increase the building's first-story footprint and separate the master bedroom from the others.
The changes were minor, city planner Michael Cass conceded, but the project had been significantly scaled back from its first iteration, and staff believed the home to be compatible with the neighborhood.
The residents who appealed the project, the Polichios' next-door neighbor William Wahlander and their across-the-street neighbor John Woolery, disagreed.
"(The revisions do) not show substantial change that was assured to neighbors," Wahlander said.
Arguments regarding size and height are "largely irrelevant," countered Polichio's attorney, David Bowie, because the house is acceptable under Lafayette design regulations.
"This does not require any kind of variance," he said. "It meets every standard there is."
But for a majority of commissioners who believed in October the project was too large, the proposal still did not meet the compatibility standard.
"We were told that radical changes would be made and significant changes would be made," said Vice Chair Patricia Curtin-Tinley.
As they did in October, Chairman Tom Chastain and commissioner Rick Humann voted to reject the appeal and support the project. Commissioner Karen Maggio recused herself from Monday's discussion.
Several people spoke Monday in support of the Polichio plan, many worrying the denial would have a chilling effect on those looking to purchase, and subsequently expand, a house in Lafayette.
"If you look at this poor family today, they've had to hire an attorney, they've had to go through appeals, all to build their dream home," said Jackie Bronson.
Polichio said he was disappointed with the commission's decision and insisted his proposal is not unique in Lafayette.
"We went into this with what we thought was a reasonable expectation of being what other people were able to do in town," he said. "There are examples of two-story homes living in harmony with single-story ranch homes."