Because the structure was just a few years old, and denying him permission to rebuild as before would cost him rental revenue from the other unit, he sought to have a change made in the zoning text. There followed a series of meetings before the planning commission and, Wednesday night, the city council.
Planners had recommended changing the OTR zoning text to permit rebuilding of non-conforming uses, even if damage exceeded 50 percent, but only for single- and two- family residences and only within one year of the damage. Council members, however, still had doubts.
During a public hearing on the issue, city planner David Petersen told members of the council there are many items besides use that can constitute non-conformance, everything from setbacks to height, porches to chimneys, balconies to awnings, roof pitch to cornices and more.
Speaking in his own behalf, Salmon asserted that every surrounding city in the area allowed the rebuild of non-conforming uses, some going so far as permitting replacement even if 100 percent destroyed.
"When you consider that," he added, "this ordinance change doesn't seem like that big a deal."
He further contended that it might actually aid in the preservation of historic homes.
"Right now, in the OTR zone if an old home was 60 percent destroyed, " he said, "you'd have to tear it down."
Finally, he stated that, although he understands cities must stand by zoning ordinances for planning purposes and to protect neighborhoods, "property owners have some rights."
In response, council members expressed worries about how design standards would be enforced and also noted the "law of unintended consequences."
"What other doors do we open," said Rick Dutson, "that we may not want opened."
Even so, Dutson, and others expressed sympathy for Salmon's situation and suggested city attorney Mike Mazuran review the text change to see if any hidden traps might be lurking within it.
Petersen then stepped forward again, this time to remind members of the council that the assumption underlying all zoning ordinances is that "over time, they are designed to eliminate non-conforming uses.
"But this change would crack the door for single- and two-family homes," he noted.
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Holmes, filling in for an absent David Connors, finally brought the matter to a head, asking city staff to provide them with further information "on the pros and cons of going with this change."
That prompted David Hale to move the issue be tabled until that could be accomplished. His motion passed unanimously.