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Anne Cleary in 2017 holds an architect's rendition of the home she would like to have built on an infill lot on Mandan Street in north Bismarck. Cleary, a Bismarck native, who grew up in the neighborhood, bought the lot from the city and is asking for a variance for the small house.

The Bismarck City Commission has reversed a decision to deny an exemption needed to build a small home on an empty lot in the Cathedral District.

Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to overturn the Board of Adjustment's decision earlier this month that prevented the owner from building a house on a 50-by-50 foot lot at 717 N. Mandan St.

The Board of Adjustment had approved a variance related to a rear-yard setback requirement, but denied the variance related to lot size.

More than a dozen people on Tuesday spoke both in favor and against Anne Cleary's appeal.

Some neighbors in the Cathedral District voiced concerns about how the small house would look in a neighborhood that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Proponents of the project said the infill project would provide economic benefits to the city.

Cleary has been trying to obtain exemptions required to build the house since 2016. The following year, the commission voted 3-2 to uphold the Board of Adjustment's denial of the variances.

Commissioner Steve Marquardt on Tuesday made a motion to overturn the Board of Adjustment's decision, saying the need for the variance "is unique to the specific parcel of land."

"The requested variance is the minimum variance that would accomplish the relief sought by the applicant," he said.

The city of Bismarck owned the lot until 2015, when it was sold to Venture Real Estate, which then sold it to Cleary.

Some residents have also criticized the transparency of the city's sale of the lot. One resident who said he offered to buy the lot told the Board of Adjustment he was "misled."

Cathedral District resident Bonnie Palicek said Tuesday the lot "is more than a rallying cry for crabby neighbors who don't want change."

"It represents the struggle for fairness by people who honestly have felt like they were wronged by their government," she said. "It feels to us the interests of ... developers are being prioritized over a sense of neighborhood."

After the meeting, Cleary said she understands her neighbors' perspectives, but is excited to prove their doubts wrong.

"I am happy to see the commission and mayor decided to allow me to move forward with the build. I worked really hard to provide as much factual information not only to why this type of infill is good for the city but also can be done in an appropriate way," she said in a statement.

Cleary said she is still determining a timeline for the house's construction.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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