DEARBORN, Michigan – The City of Dearborn, with an eye on public safety and the preservation of appealing neighborhoods, on March 4 adopted a new ordinance clarifying the legal use of residential garages.
The new law slightly expands the potential uses of garages over the city’s previous ordinance, but still states that the primary purpose is to provide off-street parking for vehicles and for incidental storage of household items.
“Looks like Ed and Moe can’t live in the garage any more.”
The new ordinance makes clear that the garage is not to be used for commercial purposes or for habitable space, which is defined as a structure for living, sleeping or cooking.
Residents who want to convert their garages into habitable space must obtain construction permits and follow all applicable building codes.
The new law also states that garages must have an overhead retractable door to allow vehicles to come and go without obstacles. The door must be opaque (one that you cannot see through) and meet state building codes.
Prior to February 2013, some residents had renovated their garages by installing transparent sliding glass doors and undertaking interior construction projects to make them more like living spaces, rather than just for vehicle parking and storage. These renovations were done without building permits.
The owners of these garages were told that their conversions violated the existing ordinance, but enforcement was suspended while the new ordinance was under review. Public discussion of the new ordinance has gone on for more than a year.
Now, in order to give those homeowners time to comply with the ordinance adopted on March 4, the City will be in contact with residents who have converted or begun the conversion of their garages, to ensure they understand how to meet the new requirements.
Council President Susan Dabaja said the City’s goal is not to penalize people with existing garage conversions, but to gain compliance with the new ordinance.
“We want to work with our residents who converted their garages or whose construction was put on hold while the ordinance was under review. We want everyone to be in compliance, and our goal at this point is for resolution for our residents, not quick enforcement,” said Council President Dabaja.
Under the new ordinance, a garage would be considered a conversion if it included unauthorized renovations that require permits or permanent enclosure of the garage by installation of a framed wall, and/or enclosure by brick, siding or other material.
Other major provisions of the new ordinance:
- Use of the garage that impedes the homeowners’ ability to park two vehicles off the street is not allowed. The vehicles do not need to be parked in the garage.
- Homeowners must be able to meet the requirements of Public Service Days, which requires parked vehicles to be off the street on trash days April through November. So any use of a garage that would impede that ability would not be allowed.
- Occasional use of a garage for social gatherings, such as parties, which does not involve physical conversion of the garage, is permitted.
- The garage cannot open up into a room used for sleeping purposes.
- Residents may install a faucet and utility sink, following building codes, and install basic electrical service incidental to the use of the garage for minor repairs or hobbies.
- No bathrooms are allowed.
- No open flame heaters can be used or installed.
- Garages cannot be used for commercial storage, and cannot be leased to any person separately from the owner or tenant of the home.
In general, the new ordinance is intended to promote health, safety and welfare by establishing standards for garages consistent with the State of Michigan building codes and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for unobstructed access to sidewalks.
The ordinance is also designed to minimize off-street parking congestion, neighborhood overcrowding, fire hazards, and other conditions detrimental to public safety and quality of life.
For information about how to comply with the new ordinance, please contact the Residential Services Department at 313-943-2150.