Garage becomes a group project

A Waskasoo homeowner will have to wait to find out if his plans to improve the appearance of a large garage will meet with municipal planning commission approval.

Bertram Berzins walks over his driveway as a stucco worker completes changes to the exterior of Berzins garage on Monday.

A Waskasoo homeowner will have to wait to find out if his plans to improve the appearance of a large garage will meet with municipal planning commission approval.

Bertram Berzins came before the commission Monday to get the green light to redesign the outside of his nearly 6.7-metre-high garage to make it fit in better with the neighbourhood and his nearby house. Berzins said he is really trying to make the garage an attractive addition to the area and has invested about $7,000 on improvements.

City deputy development officer Vicki Swainson said the garage has drawn complaints in the past from some area residents and the city has been working with Berzins for the past two years to find ways to improve the appearance of the 1,280-square-foot structure at 5833 45th Ave.

Berzins has hired an architect and has already started improving the garage by altering the roof line and the addition of stucco and a cultured stone veneer. Berzins said he wanted to get working on the changes because work may take him away from Red Deer soon.

City manager Craig Curtis was troubled by the revelation work was already half complete before the commission had a chance to review the application, a move he called “highly regrettable.”

Curtis urged a two-week delay to allow Berzins to show his neighbours what he is planning and get their feedback. Curtis also wants time to review the legal implications of the earlier commission approval of a relaxation allowing the garage to be built up to 2.2 metres higher than the maximum height of 4.5 metres in city bylaws.

When the height was approved in April 2003, a drawing of the proposed garage was presented that is much different than the structure built. Two standard-sized garage doors appear on the original drawing but the actual garage has three doors, including a large overhead door similar to those found in industrial shops.

Joyce Boon, city development and licensing supervisor, said at the time the garage’s height was approved the city did not require elevation drawings of the proposed building, only a site plan showing the footprint of the building.

The city later tightened its rules to require more detailed drawings of proposed garages.

Berzins defended the garage, saying that he approached other residents beforehand to tell them what he was doing and had no opposition from his closest neighbours. Five of his immediate neighbours signed a letter supporting the garage he built big enough to accommodate a 1964 motorhome he once owned. Berzins also plans to restore old motorcycles as a hobby.

The building matches the size the commission approved, he said. The city was also given working drawings that clearly showed the current configuration.

Architect John Ferguson, who is working on the garage redesign and an upcoming renovation of Berzins’ home, said his client is “truly making an effort to bring this together in one cohesive design concept.”

Ferguson said with the growing enthusiasm for antique vehicle collecting and restoring the city will see more applications for large garages coming.

Some people also want them for RV storage or to create additional suites. It is time the city looked at its regulations around garages, he said.

The planning commission will review Berzins’ application again on July 6.

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