Board: Garage OK

A large garage that drew criticism from some neighbors will be allowed to stand, the Fort Dodge Board of Adjustment decided Monday.

At a special meeting, the board voted 3 to 2 to confirm the city zoning administrator’s original decision that the garage, located at 1826 Eighth Ave. N., is in compliance with the city’s zoning ordinance.

Board chair Susan Hayden, Steve Hoesel and Matt Johnson voted to confirm the original decision, while Eric Ruttun and Jeanine Gibson voted against.

The building in question, owned by John Gailey Jr., is a 45-by-45 foot pole barn with 16-foot-high side walls,

A group of neighbors, represented by attorney Eric Eide, said the building is too big and thus violates zoning code.

But Gailey’s attorney, Neven Mulholland, disagreed.

“It’s a tall building, and it’s a big building, but it’s not too tall or too big according to our ordinances,” Mulholland said.

Gailey came to the city, requested a permit, and provided the building’s dimensions before he began construction, Mulholland said.

“Now we have this issue brought before you asking that he stop and tear it down, even though he is in compliance,” Mulholland said.

Eide read from the city’s zoning ordinance, which states a garage must be subordinate to the main building and devoted to an accessory use.

“In no case shall such accessory use dominate, in area, extent or purpose, the principal lawful use or building,” Eide read.

Zoning Administrator Dennis Jordison said the house has 2,171 square feet of usable space. Both the house and the garage reach about 24 feet high, he said.

Ruttun said the garage dominates the house because of its larger footprint. The house has a total footprint of 1,542 square feet, according to the county assessor’s website, Ruttun said, compared to a 2,025-square-foot footprint for the garage.

“As I read it, the purpose of our ordinance is to provide adequate light and air and prevent overcrowding of the land,” Ruttun said.

But according to Hoesel, the purpose of zoning has always been primarily about the use of the land.

“The new building is a garage, which is a totally appropriate use of the land,” he said.

The garage is under the 35-foot height limit, he said.

“Perhaps the code has an error, and that’s too high for a residential structure,” Hoesel said. “But Mr. Jordison has to go by what’s actually in the ordinance.”