The winds of change are coming to Wendell – in the form of residential garage design.
Town commissioners voted 3-2 to approve changes to town rules for garage design last week, but some residents are concerned about the implications.
Commissioner Ginna Gray voted to approve, commissioners John Boyette and Jon Lutz abstained, and Mayor Pro Tem James W. Parham and commissioner Sam Laughery voted against the ordinance.
Following the vote, there was confusion over the proper procedure, and Lutz later clarified that he would have voted for the ordinance as it was proposed. Laughery had suggested bringing the ordinance back to the planning board.
The new amendment would require attached garages – at least those that would load from the front – to be recessed at least two feet from the front of the house.
The old ordinance had required the garage to be recessed by five feet. These new design standards were based on Knightdale’s standards, said town planning director David Bergmark.
In addition, the new amendment allows for porches to count as the front of the house, if it is more than 30 percent of the front facade of the house.
Bergmark said that the main reason these standards are put into place is to prevent so-called “snout-houses” from being built. The new standards still uphold the same objective but allow more flexibility in the home’s design compared to the old standard.
“In essence, the new standard still prevents a type of design that the community indicated it didn’t want, while giving more freedom to builders than they previously had,” Bergmark said.
The amendment allows garages to extend up to six feet beyond the front of the house if it meets certain criteria, including: no single garage door(s) greater than 12 feet in width; those garage doors that have window inserts, carriage style or similar styles, though not paneled; and those that involve a trellis, eyebrow roof, or similar architecture.
The changes were initiated by M/I Homes of Raleigh, but will impact the entire town’s Unified Development Ordinance.
“They wanted to change the requirement to allow garages to come closer to allow building plans that otherwise wouldn’t meet that specific requirement,” Bergmark said.
Nora Cambier expressed concern that the UDO had not been adequately tried because of the recession, reminding the council of the hard work put into the UDO. She urged the council to take serious consideration before modifying the ordinance.
Regina Harmon pushed the council to keep one set of standards between Wendell Falls and the rest of town.
“Wendell Falls is Wendell,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we be unified under one set of standards?”
Harmon said she was concerned about the motive to lower the cost of houses.
“We have enough cheap houses,” she said.
The town considered three recommendations. First, M/I Homes made a recommendation to reduce the garage recess from five feet to two feet. The planning department staff liked that idea, and added the six feet extension with design qualifications.
The Wendell planning board recommended the rules shouldn’t limit how much the garage could project if it kept those design criteria.
Reached by telephone on Wednesday, planning board chairman Harold Broadwell defended the board’s recommendation.
“There should be flexibility,” he said.
However, during Tuesday’s meeting, planning board member Ruth van der Grinten came before commissioners to make a personal recommendation that the board keep a limit on how far out a garage could protrude.