By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — The long talked about garage ordinance received its second reading and approved by the City Council Tuesday.
The ordinance passed 6-0 with one councilman absent at the March 4 council meeting.
The ordinance was before the Planning Commission for five meetings and was discussed by the council at several meetings and study sessions before being given its first of two required readings for the third time last month.
Council President Susan Dabaja said it has been a long process to arrive at the current language of the ordinance.
She said all of the discussion has been focused on clarifying “the boundaries of the normal use of a garage as well as to promote the compatibility of neighborhoods.”
The old zoning ordinance only allowed the garage to be used for the parking of automobiles, but the city had been working to amend it to allow the storage of household items and so that hobbies, parties and other things legally can occur inside a garage.
According to the new ordinance, any use of the garage that would impede the resident from being able to park at least two vehicles off the street would be prohibited. That would allow residents to remove vehicles from city streets during emergencies and on Public Service Days.
The language of the new ordinance also strictly prohibits converting the garage to a habitable space, 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.
Using a garage for commercial purposes which adversely affect a neighborhood also are banned.
The topic of garage usage and the hanging of transparent doors came to the fore last year in response to sliding glass doors being placed 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.
The new ordinance allows doors to be opaque, but not transparent.
According to the proposed ordinance, “A garage shall be enclosed by an opaque door; enclosure by a screen or transparent door wall is not permitted. The door will consist of such material that, when closed, the contents of the garage will not be visible from the public right of way.”
The ordinance also 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.
Muheeb Nabulsy, who lives on Orchard and has a sliding glass door on the front of his garage, addressed the council, saying a ban on sliding glass doors takes away the freedom of choice for residents.
“I’m not using my garage as a house or as a living space,” Nabulsy said. “Why am I not allowed to have this door? I can still park my vehicle in the garage with a glass door. This is not freedom.”
Councilman Thomas Tafelski said the glass doors could create distractions and complaints from neighbors because the light is not screened through the glass.
He also said the city has to come up with the best solution for every resident and that it is not easy to do that.
“What about those people that do not want the glass doors?” Tafelski said. “What about the residents who say that it is their right to not have to see glass doors on garages? We have to have a uniform policy.”
Councilman Michael Sareini said a big reason for a ban on glass doors is safety because they aren’t made for the purpose people are using them for.
“The doors must meet the Michigan building codes for safety and there are ways to get them tested to see if they do,” Sareini said. “But doors that are structurally made to be driven over are not safe or acceptable.”
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said the city will work to get the information about the ordinance out to residents now that the law has changed. He said information will be disseminated theough the city’s website, CDTV and the community newsletter “The Back Fence.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])