Oversized garage plan sparks plenty of debate

But Port commission approves request from one of its former members
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

A request to build a detached garage that’s taller and larger than Port Washington’s building code allows was approved by the Plan Commission last week, but not without significant debate.

Former commission member Tony Matera received permission to build a two-story garage that’s 768 square feet and 24 feet tall at his 764 N. Milwaukee St. home.

City codes, however, only allow a 15-foot-tall garage that’s 720 square feet unless a person receives a special exception from the commission, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

Harris noted that garages in Matera’s neighborhood vary in size, with some in the 700 to 800 square foot range.

He also noted that four neighbors signed a petition supporting Matera’s request, while two opposed it.

Matera’s plan is to build a garage that, in addition to providing space for two vehicles, will have a bathroom on the first floor and a recreation room on the second floor, as allowed by the city zoning code.

Dan Gerth, who lives nearby at 190 W. Walters St., said the garage will overshadow the neighborhood.

“The thing is going to be so big it’s going to overshadow my neighbor’s back yard,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to her.”

And, Gerth said, approval of the oversized garage will set a precedent.

“When is it going to stop?” he asked.

Denver Smith, 814 N. Benjamin St., told the commission it should not approve the plans, noting that when she sought approval for a larger garage last year her request was turned down.

Commission member Mike Ehrlich said he thought the building could be made two feet shorter and, even though it would still exceed the permitted height, it would look and feel better in the neighborhood.

“I would like to see what it would look like by reducing it a little more,” he said.

Commission member Kyle Knop concurred, saying the garage should be designed to fit within the parameters allowed by code.

Nick Suddendorf of Fine Line Carpentry told the commission that while it is a tall structure, the garage was designed to fit in the neighborhood with amenities such as cedar shakes on the second floor.

“I think it’s going to add to the neighborhood,” he said, adding that the added height was the result of building a second floor loft area.

Ehrlich noted that the 15-foot height limit doesn’t allow for a second floor to the garage, something that is permitted under city codes.

The code needs to be revised because of that, Knop said.

“We need to look at this. We will get into an argument every time otherwise,” he said, adding that a 750-square-foot garage is reasonable given the size of vehicles today.

But Knop, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he saw little difference between Matera’s request and Smith’s.

The amount of extra architectural detail makes the difference, Ehrlich said.

“What they’re doing additional to get this to fit in the neighborhood,” he said, adding that’s the reason he was comfortable approving the larger structure. “It’s nice, goes above and beyond.”

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