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The residents of Coronado are proud of their history. In city council chambers, underneath the large silver crown logo, behind the council’s desk, are the words “Established in 1890.” While the residents of Coronado love their history, they absolutely loathe density.

Two years ago Councilmembers Phil Monroe, Al Ovrom Jr. and Mayor Tom Smisek decided they like their history more than they dislike density. So, they bolstered the authority of the Historic Resource Commission and allowed them to give “incentives” to owners of smaller historic properties to restore their properties instead of building new, more modern, bigger buildings.

Joe and Caylee Pinsonneault agreed to preserve their house, despite the financial benefits of doing otherwise. In return for going the preservation route, the Historic Resource Commission looked past the current zoning regulations and allowed the Pinnsonneaults to build a new unit above their garage and enabled them to rent it out as a second residence.

Halfway in to the renovation, the project was put on hold by the city. Shortly after, a lawsuit was filed by a nearby resident against the city, asking that the second rental unit not be allowed on grounds that it violates the current zone. The judge in that case sent the issue back to the Historic Resource Commission for more hearings. At those hearings, the Historic Resource Commission ruled against their previous decision to allow a second private residence in a single-family residential zone.

The city, specifically councilmembers Monroe, Ovrom and Mayor Smisek were in a fix while the Pinnsonneaults were spending their time and money fixing up a historic property they didn’t want.

The issue was finally repaired during the November 18th meeting of the Coronado City Council. Over ten residents spoke both for and against allowing the Pinsonneaults to legally rent the residence above their garage.

Joe Pinnsonneault addressed the council. “We didn’t ask for this situation. We were asked to keep the front house. Our deal was we would get the second house in the back and keep it as two addresses and keep it as a separate rental. We did the city a favor. Something is not right here. Why are we being penalized after we made a deal and after we got approval?”

Councilmember Carrie Downey agreed with the homeowner while mildly admonishing her fellow councilmembers for giving the Historic Resource Commission so much power. “When we had the discussion about density I heard the words that ‘We need to balance one homeowner’s interests against the interests of the city’ we did that, actually I didn’t, but Mr. Ovrom, Mr. Monroe and Mr. Smisek did that when they instituted the historic ordinance in our town which said ‘We pride ourselves on our historic nature, we will do what we can to encourage that.’ In hindsight maybe we gave them too much power, but that’s what we gave them and the Pinnsonneaults shouldn’t have to pay.”

Mayor Smisek spoke last. “I knew this would happen. This was one of my concerns when we first started granting a lot of power to the Historic Resource Commission.”

The city council voted 4 to 1 in favor of the Pinnsonneaults, with Mayor-elect Casey Tanaka the sole dissenting vote.

For more information on how to get by zoning requirements, go to the Historic Resource Commission’s page on the city’s website at Coronado.ca.us.

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