Changes would allow small sheds to be built without a permit in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 23, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — An amendment to the section of the zoning ordinance concerning accessory structures has paved the way for residents to erect sheds less than 24 square feet without having to pull a permit to do so.

Accessory structures constructed of a resin-based material up to 24 square feet would be allowed without a building permit, provided they have a weatherproof floor and are placed on a concrete or asphalt pad at least 4 inches thick. Although the Planning Commission recommended that patio blocks or concrete pavers also be acceptable, Councilman Chris Vitale said that defeated his goal in bringing the measure forward.

“The idea of this is to have a monolithic pad,” he said. “You don’t have separation — you don’t have a place for rodents to get under. If we’re going to take away the rat wall, then I at least want some assurance that we’re going to keep rodents out of this.”

Accessory structures from 24 to 144 square feet would still require a building permit, but they would be able to be built on a 4-inch thick concrete or asphalt pad that extends 6 inches past the shed walls on all sides, instead of requiring footings or a rat wall.

Vitale said he had suggested a 6-inch extension of the concrete on all sides and didn’t know why it had been changed in the proposed amendments — first to 24 inches and then reduced to 12 inches.

“The whole point of this ordinance was to try to make it easier,” he said.

City Council members pointed out that the ordinance brought before them was lacking some clarity, and it differed from Vitale’s original intention. While the body might typically table matters such as this, Councilman Ron Frederick said he knew there were residents waiting for the amendments so they could construct structures.

“There’s actually a few residents out there who are anxious to get this thing passed, to get their shed up before the winter,” he said. “If there’s something we can do tonight, as opposed to tabling it, (we should) get the language right tonight and be done with it.”

Structures larger than 144 square feet and less than 400 square feet would still need to be built on a 24-inch rat wall with a 4-inch concrete floor and would require a building permit. Structures larger than 400 square feet would need to be erected on a 42-inch footing, as dictated by the current building code.

The amendments, which also included clarification that pools must be erected at least 6 feet from the side and rear property lines, passed with a vote of 5-1. Councilwoman Candice Rusie was opposed and Councilman Peter Accicia was absent, but excused, from the meeting.

“This felt very chaotic and uncertain up here ... for making what should be a very simple modification that’s resident friendly,” Rusie said. “I don’t feel comfortable with this process. I totally support the reason behind it.”

Vitale agreed that the amendment process was not as smooth as it should have been, but he did not want to have to begin the whole process again, with advertising and returning the matter to the Planning Commission. He suggested to city staff that, “the next time a council person comes up with an ordinance and it changes vastly from what was proposed” through staff edits, “I would say, pick up the phone.”

Mayor Kip Walby agreed that he would have preferred that the usual process had been followed when something was brought before council that needed so many changes.

“I think process and procedures goes a long way,” he said.

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