Jamie Taylor/River News
Freestanding accessory buildings, such as the one shown here, will require a conditional use permit and must meet all building requirements to be located in the city limits after the planning commission decided not to amend the ordinance prohibiting them.
4/22/2017 7:29:00 AM Planning commission opts against changing accessory building ordinance CUPs required for carport-style structures
Those city residents who have carport-style structures on their property and who were hoping for a change in the city ordinance governing such accessory buildings will have to dig into their wallets for the fee to apply for a conditional use permit (CUP).
After nearly an hour of discussion Tuesday, the planning commission opted not to amend the ordinance to loosen the restrictions on the structures.
City fire chief and inspector Terry Williams said the city ordinance pertaining to accessory buildings specifically prohibits the structures in question, which are commonly used to protect boats and campers from the elements, unless a CUP is granted by the planning commission. These structures differ from temporary tent structures in that they are designed to be left in place permanently.
"Just so everyone is aware, all I'm trying to do at planning is to clear these (the ordinances) up so I can enforce these properly," Williams said. "These, to this date, are illegal in the city of Rhinelander according to our ordinance. Any of these that are currently up, have never been permitted."
Williams provided the members of the commission with photos of some examples of the structures from around town. He added that in addition to violating the ordinance, some are in violation of state code.
"The big concern is if they are within 10 feet of the structure," he said. "If they are within 10 feet of the structure, and they are not fire blocked or dry-walled, that is technically against state building code. That has nothing to do with the city of Rhinelander, that is the state department of commerce, which is now safety and buildings."
Williams said he checked with the state inspector out of Green Bay to verify the information.
"He said these fall under the same guidelines as if you were to stick-build a garage next to your house," Williams said. "If it is within 10 feet, it has to be dry-walled on the inside to provide a fire barrier.
Williams said the structures do not meet the city ordinances because they are over 100 square feet in size and are not built using the same mode and method of construction as the principal structure.
"We've never had somebody who has wanted to spend the money on a conditional use (permit) to go against the ordinance," Williams said. "We did have one person who came to an elected official and then ended up coming to PPP (protection of persons and property committee) to appeal my wanting them to tear it down or dismantle it because it was illegal, and PPP granted them the ability to keep it."
He added that PPP is the governmental body that hears appeals of issues arising out of the inspection department, and the city attorney at the time ruled that was the way to handle the matter.
Williams said either the commission and the full City Council stays with the current ordinances or amends it in such a way as to make the structures permissible. If it is decided the ordinance should be kept as is, and the violators are told they have to dismantle the structures, it "will be a hotbed of contention."
"I would say that they would have to come down unless you go through the conditional use process. If you go through the conditional use process, you're still going to have to meet state building code," Williams added.
If the structures were allowed, either through ordinance change or CUP, questions might also arise as to whether the city should permit them and tax them as it does garages.
"We could do something like a garage permit or a shed permit, and we would get a permit fee," Williams said. "But there is going to be a ton of review time in these because they are very different from stick- building a garage that meets our ordinance."
"The amount of money and time they're going to put into that, they'd almost be better off stick-building" a garage or carport, he added.
"It is a lot of rigamarole, but people want to put these up because they don't want to spend the extra money to build a garage," Williams said.
Commission member Mark Pelletier said if the ordinance were to be amended to allow the structures, it could be worded in such a way as to eliminate the CUP requirement and just require a building permit.
All of the usual building requirements, both local and state, would still be in place, however.
"And you would have to put it behind (the primary structure), and you would have to have it so far away from the back lot line and the sides and the back of the house," Pelletier said. "But that would have to follow the permitting fees as if someone were to build a garage."
Williams said there are provisions in the local building code for attached carports that some residents have built to use for either storage of a boat or a second car. Those are permitted structures and have to be built to code and are inspected to make sure they do.
At one point there were between 15-20 metal freestanding carports that are not allowed in the city limits, Williams said.
"That number has gone down since my ride-around last fall," he said. "Without driving every single city street again, I can't tell you exactly how many of these there are."
He noted that following last year's city-wide inspection, which drew attention to the non-permitted accessory buildings and temporary tent structures, "every single one of these people (with an accessory building) know theirs went up without a permit and are technically in violation" and therefore might have to be removed.
Interim city administrator Keith Kost said the purpose of the ordinance is beautification of the city.
"When you are congested inside of a city, it's a lot different than having this out in a township where nobody is seeing it," Kost said. "So if you are going to change the ordinance, you're going to have to look long-term at what that is going to do."
"We know what that is going to do, it's going to have stuff all over the yards," replied commissioner Sandra Bergman. "And that is why we have been working on it for five years."
After further discussion on the merits of changing the ordinance to allow the metal structures, the commission unanimously voted to leave it unchanged, making all of the structures, except the one permitted by the PPP committee, in violation. Williams said property owners who wish to keep their structure in place will have to apply for a CUP and follow all building guidelines.
The commission briefly discussed the temporary tent structure ordinance, which allows them to be in a yard for up to 120 days once the property owner or renter has obtained a free permit from the inspection department. Ideas ranged from leaving the ordinance as currently written, extending the time limit to 180 days, to banning them outright. The commission tabled discussion on the matter until the May meeting to give the members time to consider these options.
"I am just looking for guidance on how I should enforce these," Williams said.
Williams also announced that he will do another city-wide inspection this spring, similar to what he did late last summer, looking for ordinance violations concerning appearance, parking in front yards and trash. Warning letters will be sent out listing the violations, what has to be done to correct them, as well as a deadline for making the corrections.
He said he hasn't set a date yet for this year's sweep.
The commission will also tackle the issue of parking in front yards at its May meeting.
Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Article comment by:
Cosmetic yard policewoman has won again and to satisfy her demands the Fire Chief has scrambled to find to find anything partially related to support her whims. Their has been no reference to other cities dealing with this issue. Personally motivated ordinances vs. Ordiances based on the good of the people and common sense.not vanity
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