Garage ordinance given first reading by city council

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The first reading to table the ordinance amending the proper and legal uses and renovations of garages was approved unanimously by the city council at its meeting Sept. 10.

The second reading, where the council can either approve, deny or table the ordinance, is scheduled to take place at the next council meeting Sept. 24.

The current zoning ordinance only allows the garage to be used for the parking of automobiles, but the city has been working to amend it to allow the storage of household items and so that hobbies, parties and other things can legally occur inside of a garage.

“This ordinance basically says that garages are not habitable spaces or for commercial purposes,” Council President Thomas Tafelski said.

Councilman Robert Abraham said safety and parking concerns brought up by on-street parking had to be addressed by the council and the city.

“I support this ordinance as it stands today, not so much based on the aesthetic value of the garage doors, but primarily because it prevents our parking issues from moving in the wrong direction,” Abraham said.

The topic has come to the fore this year in response to sliding glass doors on garages on Orchard Street and on other properties on the east side of Dearborn.

Residents 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.

To combat this, the language of the ordinance strictly prohibits converting the garage to a habitable space, using anything other than a traditional non-transparent overhead door for automobile entry, sleeping within the garage, having an open flame heater or cooking.

There also is a prohibition against adding utilities to the garage beyond a sink sufficient for washing hands and tools and basic electrical service. The garage is not to be leased out or used for commercial storage either.

The ordinance allows for solid or hinged, sliding or French doors to be placed on garages for entry, but they must be either on the side or back of the structure and cannot exceed 8 feet in width.

It also allows the homeowner to lay flooring such as tile or carpet down in the garage.

Resident Marlene Wojtowicz told the council that she and her neighbors were in agreement with the ordinance.

“Garages are intended for the parking of cars and for storage,” Wojtowicz said. “They are not to be used as family rooms and additional living spaces as some residents have chosen to do.”

She added that the city must put parameters in place that protect all residents.

“City ordinances are put into place to protect the integrity of the city,” Wojtowicz said. “If every resident would be allowed to make structural changes of any form in their yards and houses without the city’s approval, there would be complete chaos.”

The amending of the ordinance has been before the commission almost all year, as it was discussed and tabled at the Feb. 11 and April 8 meetings. There also was a special study session held on May 28 with Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. to consider the issue.

A revision of the ordinance was not ready for the following Planning Commission meeting on June 10 so the item was tabled until July 8. There it was tabled before being discussed and passed on Aug. 12.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at