Planning Commission reviewing garage ordinance

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The definition of what a garage can be used for has become a hot topic in the city in recent months and a resolution may be tentatively ironed out as soon as this week.

The Dearborn Planning Commission was scheduled to meet July 8 and was expected to discuss the ordinance governing garage use and possibly make recommendations for the city to change the wording of it.

The topic has really come to the fore this year in response to sliding glass doors being built on garages on Orchard Street. Residents on Orchard have told the city that it is only because they like to use their garages as social meeting places for family and friends that the usual overhead doors were replaced, but some city officials have labeled it a sign that the garage could be being used as a living space.

The current ordinance limits garage use to the storing of vehicles, and the commission has heard and been considering amending the provision to allow the storage of household items for the homeowner or occupant of the house. The garage cannot be used for any business or commercial storage.

The garage also may not be used as a living space, and city officials have labeled actions like additional utility services, tiled or carpeted flooring and heating and cooling as possible signs of that having occurred.

Residents are allowed to have electrical service and a small sink in their garage.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. has told the commission that the city doesn’t want rules that are too restrictive but still has standards to maintain.

City officials have expressed concern that using a garage for purposes other than storing vehicles forces the parking of more vehicles on neighborhood streets. This makes it harder for emergency vehicles to pass through neighborhoods and can also cause problems on public service days, when the streets are supposed to be clear for trash collection and street cleaning.

Any change in the ordinance must be approved by the city council, which will meet again on July 23, so the commission will only make their recommendations to the city on the ordinance.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at