Builder: City blows roof off common sense Garage 10 inches too tall; roof rebuilt

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Courtesy photo A residential garage in Coeur d’Alene’s Sanders Beach neighborhood is being rebuilt after the city’s planning and zoning commission denied a 10-inch variance.

COEUR d’ALENE — A residential garage in Coeur d’Alene’s Sanders Beach neighborhood is being rebuilt after the city’s planning and zoning commission denied a 10-inch variance.

Following the commission’s denial, the garage’s roof had to be torn off, the trusses removed and the entire roof rebuilt to align the project with city code.

Builder Charlie Rens, who notified the city of the costly mistake on his project and applied for the variance to city code, is still scratching his head over the ordeal.

“It doesn’t seem logical,” Rens said.

Homeowner Ian Mahuren said his neighbors don’t care much about the extra 10 inches added to his garage roof — which is much lower than the roof of his attached home and cannot be seen because it sits behind the house, in a low area of his property.

“The vast majority of them (neighbors) were actually concerned about wastefulness and the resources … throwing away trusses, lumber … over something as small as 10 inches,” Mahuren said.

The problem arose last month when Rens ordered specific trusses with a specific pitch that would have conformed to the city’s planning and zoning code, which requires that accessory buildings be no higher than 18 feet.

The wrong trusses were delivered, although they were the same pitch as the house’s roof. Builders put them up, nailed them in and sheeted the roof. When it was measured, however, the builders realized they were 10 inches over the 18-foot limit.

Rens, a former president and current board member of the North Idaho Building Contractors Association, shut down the job on East Young Avenue an hour later and went to the city to report the discrepancy.

He was told he could file for a variance. Many exceptions to the 10-inch rule have been allowed in the past, Rens said.

“The precedent is out there,” he said.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Lynn Fleming agreed.

At the commission’s Jan. 8 meeting, Fleming said the variance, because of its trivial nature, should be approved.

“I really find that we are nitpicking, and we shouldn’t be,” Fleming said. “I know there are problems down in Bellerive where we have entire elevator shafts above the height that is supposed to be down there, so I can see a lot bigger problems than 10 inches worth. I don’t see this is significant enough to be turned down.”

Neighbor Rufino Diaz, a retired administrative judge, said the extra 10 inches on the garage roof doesn’t make a difference to neighbors because it affects no one. He urged commissioners to use their discretion and common sense to allow the variance.

“It would be a shame if all that work went to waste,” Diaz said.

Commissioners, however, by a 3-2 vote, ruled against allowing the 10-inch variance.

Vice chair Jon Ingalls said the ordinance is very narrow and only allows a variance for a few reasons. The extra 10 inches on the garage roof did not fit the exceptions.

“I don’t hear anything so far that would give this group anything at all to make a finding that the physical characteristics of this site are so peculiar that we have to exceed the height limitation,” Ingalls said, before voting with commissioners Brinnon Mandel and Peter Luttropp to deny the variance. Commissioners Michael Ward and Fleming voted to allow the variance. Lewis Rumpler was not present for the vote.

At a cost of between $7,500 and $8,000, workers tore the old roof off last week. The new trusses and sheeting should be up this week, almost two months after the 10-inch discrepancy was found. The truss-maker paid for the mistake, Rens said.

He is still debating the decision.

“I don’t want to be sour grapes about it,” he said. “But we were totally trying to be transparent up front. Using reason, logic and common sense, it seemed like such a non-event.”

Mahuren, who has fixed up houses in Coeur d’Alene since he bought his first one on Fifth Street as an 18-year-old, said the outcome of the hearing was a jolt.

“In the end, you try to do something right and get smacked for it,” he said.

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