By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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After hearing the arguments, the commission decided to recommend to the City Council rules that limit garages to 1,000 square feet in area and shorter than 18 feet high or the height of the primary house.
The City Council has the final decision about any changes made.
The issue was prompted by neighbors concerned about a nearly 22-foot-tall garage built by Ken and Kathleen Burrer of Fir Street.
Planning Commissioner Barbara Sanford said she was worried the 18-foot limit still could make garages like the Burrers' look out of scale.
“If that building were 3.5 feet shorter than it is, I think it would still be too tall for a lot of people,” Sanford said.
Chris Hugo, director of community development for the city, worked up limits for the commission's Tuesday night meeting.
In addition to the footprint and height restrictions, Hugo put forth a rule that said garages could occupy only up to 40 percent of the property's frontage.
The Burrers' garage, he said, takes up almost 80 percent of their property boundary, creating a “wall” that takes up even more of their neighbors' view.
Rene Toft and several other residents of the 900 block on Willow Street attended Tuesday's meeting to ask for limits on garages after the Burrers' garage was built across the alley from their homes.
“It's just not right to your fellow man to take his light, his privacy, his view,” Toft said.
Ken Burrer said he built the garage after receiving complaints about the condition of storage sheds and a recreational vehicle parked on his property.
“This would have never, ever been an issue, but somebody sent me a nasty-gram,” Ken Burrer said of an anonymous complaint he received in his mailbox.
Neighbor Donald Wright complained he noticed the sheds were removed but didn't know the Burrers were building a big garage until “here comes a 20-some-foot post.”
After that post went up, some of the Burrers' neighbors complained to Hugo, who then asked the Planning Commission to review standards for garage sizes.
“Your structure could be easily three times the size of the house,” Hugo said of the current standards.
Willow Steet resident Robert Mullen said the Oak Tree neighborhood was built and marketed so that “every house has a view of the Olympic Mountains.”
That's no longer the case, Mullen said.
“It may be legal, but it isn't neighborly,” he said.
Mike McAleer, a longtime local real estate agent, suggested neighbors could form a homeowners' association to enforce limits on the size of garages in their neighborhood.
Citywide limits on garages, he said, could detract people who want such amenities from buying homes in the city.
Hugo, though, said city regulations would provide a layer of official enforcement that homeowners' associations don't have.
Commission Chairman Jon Wendt said owning a home within the city limit brings with it a responsibility to “live in harmony with your neighbors.”
“If you want to build a big barn, you should be living in the country,” Wendt said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.