Resident complains after learning he can’t build a garage on a vacant lot

By Ralph Echtinaw

City council discussed modifying a zoning ordinance that prevents vacant lot owners from erecting garages without houses at Tuesday’s meeting.

The issue surfaced when a St. Louis resident contacted Councilman Roger Collison after being told he can’t build a garage on a vacant lot across the street from his house.

The ordinance in question “prohibits accessory building or structures upon any lot in single ownership on which there is no principal building.”

“It seemed unreasonable to me that this happened,” Collison said. “I thought the resident had a good point. A resident ought to have some control over his property.”

Councilman George Kubin spoke up to say, “I’m not against it. But experience has shown me that when we have these things there is a reason why. So I would want to ask experts in zoning why it is and what could go wrong.”

Councilmen Bill Leonard, who has spent 21 years on the zoning board of appeals, spoke in favor of leaving the ordinance as it is. Without the ordinance, problems would arise after the property changes hands and the new owner puts in a machine shop, auto repair shop or other use not allowed in residential areas.

“You’re going to have a mess,” Leonard said. “Not a little mess. A big mess. Not now. Ten years, 15 years, 20 years down the road. Someone will say what the hell were those guys thinking when they did that?”

City Manager Kurt Giles agreed (via email) that the defunct Ed’s Carburetors in a residential area on Union Street is a good example of a non-conforming use in a residential zoning district. “Except for certain home occupation situations, operating a business venture in a residential district would remain prohibited, but it’s easy to see how something like that might develop especially if it started out on an informal basis,” he said.

Giles intends to gather more information on the zoning issue and get back to council on the matter.

No parking

Council approved a request from Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. to create a no-parking zone within 25 feet of the alley entrance between 109/113 River Court across the street from the high school football field. Cars are often parked there during football games and other events, creating a vision obstruction for anyone attempting to exit or enter the alley.

Two signs will be installed 25 feet on either side of the alley saying “No parking from here to alley.”

Police may then ticket or tow cars parked next to or in that alley.

Open line of credit

Council approved an “open line of credit” (as Public Services Director Keith Risdon put it) of $10,000 with the Spicer Group engineering firm for providing as-needed geographic information system services to the city. This involves updating zoning maps, police department maps, city boundary and utility adjustments and updates to the water, stormwater, sanitary and electrical GIS systems for the city.

Dump truck box bought

Council approved buying a dump truck box for $18,890 from Shults Equipment of Ithaca. The box to be replaced is rusty from 15 years of being on the city’s primary salt spreader truck. “I have taken it to Misenhelder Welding of Ithaca for repairs, and they determined that the cost would be on par with replacement, making repair not a sensible option,” DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott wrote in a memo. “I believe that this replacement will extend the service life of this truck for at least five years to as much as ten years.” Delivery and installation are estimated to be sometime before spring 2022.

Fisher retires

Jeff Fisher has retired from the Electric Department after 33 years. Giles said an apprentice will be hired soon.

Gold Wing parade set

The Michigan chapter of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association will stage a motorcycle light parade in St. Louis at dusk (about 9 p.m.) Saturday, Aug. 21.

“Typically, these parades are done later in the evening to show off the lighted accessories attached to the motorcycles,” Ramereiz said.

The event will start in the middle school parking lot and go west on River Court, north on North Main, west on Prospect, south on North Mill, east on Saginaw and finish in high school parking lot.

GWRRA rider Neal Feikema told Ramereiz that these events draw anywhere from 30 to 170 Gold Wing riders.

Categories: Uncategorized

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