Truman Opts to Adjust Ordinances Concerning Accessory Buildings: Jason Werner Given Nod of Approval from Neighbors, City for New Garage
BY NIKKI MEYER
The Truman City Council, and Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Committee, has spent the past two months trying to figure out how to handle a request from resident Jason Werner to construct a garage on a piece of property he recently purchased on the west edge of town, near the Community Building.
Werner, who purchased the property from Carl Vogt, approached then City Clerk Monte Rohman with his intention of constructing a garage in which he would want to make reclaimed wood furniture. Understanding his intention was to run a small business out of the building, Rohman directed Werner to submit an Application for Consideration for a Zoning Request—in essence, changing the zoning of his land from Residential to Commercial.
Neighboring property owners were notified of the request and hearings—a necessary act which opened Pandora’s box, so to speak. Many neighbors did not like the idea of staring at a commercial garage from their homes, and Curtis and Debbie Meyer went to far as to pay for an assessment, which indicated that the rezoning would lower their property value, something the couple was adamantly opposed to.
During the process of deciding what to do, the City Council indicated that spot rezoning—changing the zoning type in a property that would make it different than any other type around it—was something the City stayed away from and that perhaps a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) might be the route to go. A CUP would fall under the jurisdiction of the P&Z Committee,
to which it was referred.
At the first P&Z meeting, many residents were in attendance, however a large portion of the P&Z Committee was not. Attendees exchanged heated words, Vogt offered to buy the property back, and Werner expressed that he was willing to work with conditions on the size and placement of his the garage he wanted to build.
P&Z Chairman Jake Ebert decided it would be best to revisit the matter when the entire committee was present, and after consulting with City Attorney Jim Wilson.
The Committee met with Wilson on Monday, January 28, 2019 prior to the CUP hearing later that evening. Wilson stated that the request didn’t qualify for a CUP. Truman Zoning Ordinance 4.6.h states: No accessory building shall be constructed or developed on a lot prior to the time of construction of the principal building to which it is an accessory building except by conditional use permit. The CUP referred to in the ordinance would be for a building to go up, such as to house materials, while the principal building, or house, is being constructed. Werner has no plans for a principal building.
Furthermore, when a CUP is granted it is generally with the understanding that if the conditions laid out are not met that the CUP can be revoked. Wilson gave the example of granting a CUP for someone to run a commercial bait shop out of a residential garage. If the owner does not continue to meet the conditions laid out in the CUP, their permission to run the bait shop is revoked. However, if permission is granted to erect and use a building assuming certain conditions are met, it wouldn’t be possible for the City to later revoke permission except by tearing down the building.
At the conclusion of the workshop, City Councilor Kathy Hendricksen stated, “I just think with all the facts we have before us that it’s...”
“We have no choice,” finished Mayor and P&Z member Lynne Brownlee.
“You hate to discourage people to do something, but if we chop off two toes to save one, it ain’t gonna work,” said City Councilor Brian Nickerson.
The P&Z Committee convened the hearing later, and Ebert asked both the other P&Z members and residents in attendance if they had anything to share. Mark Durkee, whose property abuts Werner’s new lot, stated he and wife Margaret had, “talked about it. We’d heard rumors about what was going to be there, it if was going to be commercial or if there was going to be a big building... and we found out for sure now that Jason would like to get a double garage in there and we decided we’re less concerned about that. We all gotta be good neighbors, too.”
Werner brought up a petition that had been raised, stating he had talked to a number of people and “when they realized what I was really trying to do they had a different light on things.”
Curtis Meyer reiterated his concern with his property value going down if the area was rezoned. The P&Z Committee stated rezoning was not an option.
Werner stated that he just wanted to “put up a 1000’ foot garage, residential style—just like a garage anywhere else in town.”
“I think we all agree we can live with a garage,” C Meyer stated.
During the meeting it was realized that part of the problem was that Werner had never been asked to formally submit a CUP application. Once the rezoning idea was negated, the council moved straight into considering a CUP without getting an application for one.
The City last issued a CUP to Prairieland, which was originally done in 1990, also without a formal application at the time, according to what City Administrator Bethanie Ekstrom has been able to uncover. Prairieland must reapply for the permit on a yearly basis.
While a CUP application would have required Werner to specify items such as, such as: Location of Lot buildings, Dimensions of proposed structure, Dimensions of site, Proposed setbacks, Distances between any proposed structures, Other information that may be helpful; Werner had indicated during the process that he was willing to modify his plans as necessary in order to make the building possible.
By the end of the hearing, the Committee had a general consensus from the group that they felt Werner should be given permission to construct the building. However, the Committee had no viable options to do it under the current city code. Several attendees, including Ebert, stated they had been in a similar position to Werner, wanting to build a garage in town yet being unable to under the current code.
It was then put to the Committee to change the code, allowing Werner and others to erect a garage. One concern, however, was the limited availability of buildable lots in town. Allowing residents to begin putting up garages on available lots would further inhibit new homes in town.
A member in attendance suggested the code be revised to allow for garages so long as it was done in a way that would still allow for a house or other livable space (such as above the garage) to be constructed on the lot in the future. The option would make more lots available without completely taking away the possibility of a residence.
The council liked the suggestion and told Werner they would work with Wilson to have the code redone within 30 days.