Council tables garage ordinance again

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The ordinance changing the rules regarding garage usage and front door appearance will not be before the city council until at least mid-November.

At the Oct. 24 Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. told the council that the city Law Department is still working on the language of the proposed ordinance and recommended that the item be tabled until they finish. No word was given whether or not the ordinance will be ready for either the Nov. 12 or 26 meetings.

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.

Residents and homeowners are required to have two off-street parking spots on the property so that cars can be cleared from the street on public service day.

The language of the amended ordinance 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 is also 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 wording of the ordinance was drafted by Assistant City Attorney Bill DeBiasi and was passed by the city Planning Commission on Aug. 12 after being before the commission several times this year.

The city council gave the ordinance its first reading at its Sept. 10 meeting, but then tabled it two weeks later instead of giving it a second reading and putting it into law.

In postponing the reading of the ordinance, Council President Thomas Tafelski said the council and the city administration would like more time to discuss the proposed ordinance and will re-visit the topic at a future council meeting or by scheduling a study session to review the matter.

At the mayor’s Oct. 1 briefing session, O’Reilly told the council members present that the Law Department is happy with the off-street parking requirements and restrictions to garage modifications in the language but is continuing to research rules regarding garage doors.

The topic of garage use and the hanging of transparent doors have come to the fore this year in response to sliding glass doors being placed on garages on Orchard Street and on other properties on the east side of the city.

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.

The amended ordinance would allow for solid/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 eight feet in width.

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 was also a special study session held on May 28 with 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