By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The City Council met with members of the Building Department, Zoning Board, and administration to discuss ticketing of residents for temporary and permanent backyard gazebos.
During the meeting on Sept. 17 at the Dearborn Administrative Center, Council President Susan Dabaja and Councilman Michael Sareini said they received multiple complaints from residents because they were issued fines, tickets, violations and different explanations on what the city’s gazebo laws were.
Sareini asked the administration, Zoning Board and Building Department for a clear explanation on what the law is for gazebos, the differences between temporary and permanent structures, and what type of structures the gazebos or pergolas were considered.
“We can’t move forward until we understand what the real current law is,” Sareini said at the start of the meeting.
“Most of the unresolved 40 notices of violation and tickets have different explanations including whether the gazebo is attached or not, the size of the gazebo or that access to the garage is being blocked by the gazebo.”
Councilman Robert Abraham said the garage factor comes into play because there is more than one ordinance residents have to comply with including zoning and parking depending on the what purpose residents are using their garage for.
Corporation Counsel Debra Walling addressed some of Sareini’s concerns by informing the council that there currently wasn’t a rule or ordinance explaining the difference between a temporary or permanent gazebo.
Dabaja provided a timeline for how long ago she and other council members asked about the gazebo rules issue.
She said that at meetings last September and October questions were raised about store-bought gazebos including whether they were allowed in backyards.
Dabaja continued by saying that in April and over the summer, she began to hear chatter from residents about gazebo issues.
“There is a lot of gray area for an issue that is being so heavily enforced by city inspectors who I believe are erring on the side of caution when writing tickets,” she said. “What happens next is residents call the city or bring in their tickets for clarification when some of the staff doesn’t know what the answer is.”
Economic and Community Development Assistant Director Thomas Paison said permanent structures are anything secured into the ground, but are OK if they meet size requirements and setback dimensions.
Those dimensions are listed as 200 square feet or less and do not require a permit, but if the gazebo or structure exceeds that size, a compliance certificate application can be filled out for approval, Residential Services Department Director Nicholas Siroskey said.
During the meeting, Siroskey said most gazebo calls received come from neighbors, but residents said some inspectors told them they are using a web mapping service to find houses with gazebos in the backyard or driveway.
Arab American Civil Rights League Director Rula Aoun said she received complaints from residents who claim they are being targeted for being Arab.
Residents spoke about the targeting issue along with the other gazebo issues they have been having, while some offered suggestions.
One resident said it should be up to her to determine how her garage is used, and that if she has room to park her vehicles adequately the gazebo placement shouldn’t be an issue.
Another resident said he just wanted guidance on the rules and ordinances the city has for gazebos so he can comply.
There was no vote or decision made on what could be done to clarify current ordinance language or create new language to better explain gazebo or pergola structures during the meeting.
Dabaja said she wanted to have revisions of the rules presented to the council and given to the Planning Commission within two weeks and proceed from there.
Sareini said he requested that all the notices of violation be put on hold while changes are being discussed or a decision is made.
As for the changes, Walling said the sections containing gazebos and pergolas can be removed and new sections can be added to better explain the rules residents should follow.
One of the sections would be for temporary gazebos which would include size requirements and time frame, permanent gazebos and addressing the garage access violation.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)