Council considers amending code to allow patio project

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     A Monticello resident was looking to improve his property on N. Sycamore Street with an extension to his patio. He followed city procedure and was able to get his request added to the Monticello Board of Adjustment agenda during their April 27 meeting. He paid the $150 fee. He attended the meeting, where a public hearing was held on the matter. He had his all of his neighbors sign off, without any objections.

     However, there was not full attendance by the five BOA members, so when they voted 2-1 to allow this resident to proceed, the vote failed due to lack of a majority.

     So, Jeff McCormick came to the Monticello City Council meeting on May 3 to plead his case and seek permission (a variance) to the city’s front yard setback code.

     McCormick’s patio would be 6 feet from the city’s right of way, instead of the required 12 feet.

     The city’s code only addresses porches and decks, not patios. Mayor Brian Wolken also noted that the city council does not have the power to grant a variance.

     “If we allow it for him, we need to allow it for all and amend the city code,” urged Wolken.

     “I tried to follow the procedures and was told the vote didn’t count,” McCormick said. “Because two board members didn’t show up, that’s not on me. I didn’t get a fair shake.”

     McCormick said there are a lot of homes on N. Sycamore Street “that should be condemned,” yet he’s trying to put in the time, work, and money to improve his property.

     “I’d be paying more in taxes, which is a benefit to the city,” he added.

     Council member Dave Goedken, who attended the BOA meeting, commented that they felt McCormick deserved a variance because this situation wouldn’t happen that often, and it doesn’t warrant changing the city code.

     “Not many people want to do this,” he said.

     Council member Tom Yeoman said the issue is the fact that a patio is not defined in the code.

     “But we changed the code to allow a Grand Street property to build a front deck to what the code now reads,” Wolken referenced, meaning the council changed the code to allow a specific occurrence to be acceptable. “We can amend the code to allow patios.”

     Wolken said he’s against variances because they only apply to a specific incidence, and not the general population.

     “We need to make it so that everyone in town who wants a patio has the same rules,” he said.

     McCormick said he not only plans to expand his concrete patio, but add decorative pavers and planters.

     “I want it to be usable and functional,” he said.

     He shared with the council that he previously had to rip an old deck off his house to replace his private sewer line. Goedken asked if he was replacing an existing structure, would his patio be allowed?

     “It would need to conform to code,” answered Wolken.

     Wayne Peach, who serves on the BOA, felt that McCormick didn’t need a variance because the code doesn’t address patios. He should be allowed to proceed.

     “It’s a good addition to his house and a positive thing to the property,” said Peach.

     “But he’s violating the setback,” noted Goedken.

     The council directed City Administrator Russ Farnum to provide language pertaining to patios to amend the city code by the next council meeting (May 17), and to allow McCormick’s 9-foot extension into the greenspace.

     Wolken reminded the council and McCormick that amending the code takes three separate readings at three separate meetings, unless the council chose to waive the final two readings. If the council took its time, this issue could go into the summer, and McCormick said he felt it was unfair for him to lose time on this project.

     “I don’t want to see him (McCormick) sit for the next three months as you turn through this,” voiced Peach.

     “We need to make the code work to allow him to do his project and then he can do it,” Wolken reiterated.

     Yeoman said even if McCormick were granted a variance, he would have to show a hardship, per state code. Encroaching into the right of way is not a hardship.

In other city business:

   • The council preliminarily approved a development agreement between the city and McMATT Properties for development (a storage unit facility) along John Drive.

     The council previously approved supporting the project through TIF property tax rebates for 10 years, based on a sliding scale.

     It is projected that this would provide a tax rebate of approximately $38,000 over 10 years, while generating over $75,000 in new property tax revenue.

     City Clerk Sally Hinrichsen said she was required to put in a cap for the new revenue because the city is using TIF funding. The $75,000 is a not-to-exceed amount.

     Goedken was against the large figure, saying that was not in the initial discussions.

     “We just want the rebate for the taxes we have to pay,” commented Mike McDonough. “We want the number high enough so we’re covered and hope we never hit it.”

     The council also set a public hearing for June 21 at 6 p.m. on the proposed amendment to the city’s Urban Renewal Plan.

     Goedken reminded everyone that the city is putting this project into the TIF area to use TIF funding for the rebates.


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