By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
A request to move a manufactured house nearly three blocks from its current location has been denied due to the pitch of its roof.
The Boyne City Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), after becoming deadlocked in a 2-2 vote, did not grant a variance request which would have allowed the move of a home from Wilson Street to Lewis Avenue.
“The request is to purchase a building located at 935 Wilson St.—that building is conforming in size but it also has a roof pitch that does not conform to the 5:12 requirement of the TRD (Traditional Residential District) District,” Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson said. “They’d like to relocate this to the 515 Lewis Ave. (property.)”
McPherson said the rationale behind the 5:12 roof pitch requirement is not entirely known to him since it was enacted before his tenure began with the city.
But, he added, “I can only assume … and I think it would be an aesthetic thing.”
The pitch of the manufactured home is roughly 3.5:12, but the Boyne City Zoning Ordinance demands a roof pitch minimum of 5:12; the maximum allowable roof pitch is 12:12.
According to ZBA documents, several homes near Lewis Street also have roof pitches below 5:12.
Boyne City Realtor Chris Christensen—who was not acting in his capacity as a county commissioner—spoke on the roof pitch requirement during the ZBA meeting.
“Traditionally, in private associations, where they have private ownership … they’ll use the 5:12 roof pitch to keep you from putting mobiles (trailers) in without necessarily zoning mobiles out,” Christensen said. “What you have here is a steel frame house; but, it’s not a mobile home.”
He added, “It’s an easy way to keep from saying ‘no mobile homes.’”
The variance was requested by Mike Stark, who owns the Lewis Avenue property. He had intended to purchase the home and use it as a rental unit.
Bill Church owns the house in question—a 24-foot by 36-foot structure.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is improve both neighborhoods here,” Church said. “That being, move the residence from next to mine to Lewis Ave.”
Church said the house in question is too close to his home, and that he wants it gone.
“One thing about a manufactured home: they are federally approved by the government,” said Stark. “And, one of the reasons behind that is they have to be built to a certain code, to a certain structure to withstand whatever they need to. This is the first time that I heard a municipality actually has any type of restrictions besides square footage and how close to the lot lines—never heard anything besides a private subdivision that has any kind of architectural requirements.”
Stark asked if it was legal for the city to pass zoning laws which were more stringent than the federal guidelines for manufactured homes but was given no answer.
According to Christensen, selling the house has been difficult due to the city’s roof pitch requirement.
“It’s been on the market for roughly 430 days. We’ve had a number of offers on the property; but, most people get scared away at the 5:12 pitch and nobody ever made application for a variance until now,” Christensen said.
“Originally we had it sold almost a year ago … but the zoning seems to be the biggest issue with it.”
Church purchased the house for $28,000. But, he has had it listed for as low as $14,000 in hopes of getting rid of it.
Christensen said he understands the 5:12 pitch is in the rules, but that the area where the home is to be moved it an ideal location for this type of housing.
“We’re not trying to rabble-rouse by any stretch,” he said. “You’ve gotta look at it as an affordable housing issue: the cemetery is your neighbor, for starters, and you’re close to the schools—so, it’s a desirable renting zone; it’s a desirable zone for small families and it’s not a very high-traveled street.”
Christensen added, “The other question that has been brought up is that these rules generally show up in private subdivisions … so the question has been: is this a form of exclusionary zoning?”
Christensen said the roof pitch could be altered, but at a minimum cost of $3,000.
ZBA members Bob Carlile and Roger Reynolds voted in favor of the variance; John McClorey and Lynn Murray voted against; Pat Kubesh abstained from the hearing to avoid a potential conflict of interest.
According to zoning officials, the applicant’s only recourse for relief now is to take the matter to court.