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Planning Commission considers parameters for measuring height

The variance request for Ted Newmann to build a detached garage with square footage and height greater than allowed by city ordinance made its way back onto the city of Glencoe’s Planning and Industrial Commission’s meeting agenda and, for now, it’s not going anywhere. The commission was split on the decision 2-2, with Chair Wes Olson and Secretary Lynn Exsted voting no and David Stark and Bob Senst voting in favor of the variance — Kevin Dietz was absent, but reported on his thoughts of the variance to Olson, though he wasn’t able to weigh in on the vote.
At the beginning of the meeting, Exsted pointed out that the commission is possibly misinterpreting “height” as the city ordinance defines it. City Administrator Mark Larson said he thought the ordinance was pretty clear. Under “Accessory Building” in the city ordinance (508.05), subdivision B states, “No accessory building shall exceed fifteen (15) feet in height except as hereinafter provided.” Subdivision C, or states, “No accessory building shall exceed the height of the principal building. However, in no case, shall such accessory building exceed fifteen (15) feet in height …”
Keeping in mind the original height of the building for their first variance request was a little more than 27 feet. This meeting, Newmann brought the height down to 22 feet. However, that height is referencing the highest point of the house — the tip or point of a pitched roof (the most common style of roofing over houses. It accounts for the triangle shape when looking at a home from the front).
Exsted then pointed out to Larson that the issue is that they aren’t sure what “height” means as defined by the ordinance code. A seemingly trivial definition wouldn’t normally warrant 30 minutes worth of conversation, but the language of the definition was tricky: “Building Height: A distance to be measured from the mean ground level to the top of a flat roof, to the mean distance of the highest gable on a pitched or hip roof, to the deck line of a mansard roof, to the uppermost point on all other roof types.”
Conversations about what “height” means for Glencoe’s ordinance carried on well after the meeting. City ordinance books peeled open as the commission looked over each other’s shoulders trying to figure out which measurement of height to use.
Their split decision resolution was based on the definition of height as follows, from Exsted herself in an email to The Chronicle: “...height would be from the ground to the mean distance of the highest gable on the pitched roof. We calculated height as: total height of the pitch (22 ft.) (minus) wall height, leaving 12 ft. remaining to the highest point (divided by two equals 6 ft.). The actual height would then be 16 ft. … instead of 22 ft.”
For more, see the June 20 print edition of The Chronicle.