NATIONWIDE RESPONSE… Watervliet Middle School teachers Jason and Amy Oetjens pictured here were picked from thousands of emails sent to the actress Kristen Bell. Kristen Bell chooses a teacher to feature from emails sent to her each Friday on her Instagram page. Jason and Amy Oetjens were the first teacher couple and the first from Michigan, Kristen’s home state, to be featured on her page. They were asked to create a wish list for their classrooms, students, and school. The Oetjens were overwhelmed by the response of people from all over the country that donated to their classrooms and students. From their wish list they were able to get supplies for their classrooms, students and start a hygiene closet at the Watervliet Middle School.
Watervliet considers ordinance amendment for restricting size of accessory buildings;
Homeowner questions motive of Commission in light of so many City properties in disrepair
By Annette Christie
The Watervliet City Commission took their first stab at an ordinance amendment that would restrict the size and dimensions of accessory structures at their Tuesday, April 23 meeting. First brought up at a meeting earlier this month, the discussion began after a resident built an accessory building (pole barn) that seemed too large for the neighborhood according to some.
At the April 2 business meeting of the City Commission, Mayor Dave Brinker said that he would like to see additional restrictions on the types of accessory structures that are allowed within the city limits. Among the changes being considered was a limitation on the height of 14’ and a maximum size of 1,000 sq. ft. The structures are limited in use to storage used by the home owners and may not be used for any type of business, service or industry. Brinker worked with Zoning Administrator Bob Lohr on some suggested changes to the ordinance.
The ordinance amendment presented stated: “Any separate building or attached portion of the principal building which is intended for and used to store the private passenger vehicle(s) of the family or families resident on the premises, and in which no business, service or industry connected directly or indirectly with the automotive vehicle or structure is carried on. No accessory structure serving a single-family residence within any Residence District will exceed 1,200 square feet in area or possess an overall height of 16 feet. Accessory structures serving multiple family buildings having two or more garage areas connected within one block or structure shall limit the size of the vehicle parking to an area of no more than 14 feet by 22 feet.”
Once it was opened up for comment, city resident Rick Rasmussen told the City Commission that after he found out what the potential change was that was going to be presented, he started to look at different sizes of accessory buildings in and around the area. He said he thought that the restrictions of accessory buildings should be no bigger than 900 sq. ft. and no higher than 14 feet high.
John LaRatta asked of the City Commission who are they to say what people can do with their property. While he commented that his garage may have ticked some people off, he suggested that the City Commission should be more concerned about all the dilapidated houses, foreclosed homes, and structures with blue tarps over them versus telling people that are actually making improvements on their homes and property, what to do with their property. He noted that he has made a lot of improvements to his home since 2016 and he doesn’t just do a patch job here or there, he wants it to look nice. “My garage is not an eye sore, it is not hurting anything,” LaRatta said.
Brinker commented in response that the city does have to have some sort of structure. “You are trying to do things better, you don’t want to have someone with junk cars next door, there is a reason why we do these things. We have to come up with what’s allowed or not,” Brinker said.
City resident Robert Pelton said that he would like to see the ordinance amendment state that the exterior finish of the accessory building matches the exterior finish of the home. He stated that this helps to keep it looking like a home versus an industrial building and then it blends with the principal residence.
Brinker noted that the City Commission has heard citizen discussion and that he would like to hear a motion on the table before the City Commission began discussing it.