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Raleigh homeowners blame city for 'Garage Mahal'

Posted October 25, 2016

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— Quaint bungalows line Cole Street in the Glenwood-Brooklyn historic neighborhood near downtown Raleigh, but a 33-foot-tall structure looms over Emily Kissee's backyard.

"Our neighborhood has a little nickname for the this. It's called the 'Garage Mahal' just because of how massive it will be," Kissee said Tuesday.

DJF Builders is constructing two houses on the lot at 514 Cole St., which had been vacant land for decades, and the homeowner under contract to buy one of the houses decided to build a 1,200-square-foot accessory building. Gupton Built LLC properly applied for a city permit to build the accessory structure, and the city granted it.

Kissee said that never should've happened.

"That structure is currently illegal," she said. "This whole structure is supposed to be entirely in the rear of that house."

Gupton Built owner Corbin Gupton declined to comment. Dennis Fitzgerald, president of DJF Builders, said his company built the houses but has nothing to do with the accessory building.

The Kissees filed a complaint with the city after reviewing city codes for potential violations. They also filed a public records request for any documents related to the permit, and city emails appear to support their claim.

"It is clear that this permit was issued in error and not vetted," said one email from Eric Hodge, Raleigh's assistant planning administrator.

In another email, Stacy Barbour, the city's development review manager, called the matter "truly an awkward mess."

After the Kissees complained, Raleigh officials ordered work on the garage to halt, and the dispute was sent to the Raleigh Historic District Commission. A committee is scheduled to hold a quasi-judicial hearing Thursday to determine whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the garage.

"The committee’s review will include looking at the materiality and overall form of the garage, as well as the size, mass, scale and location," city spokesman John Boyette said in a statement. "The committee may approve or deny the COA application, or it may defer action on the item to allow for additional time to review the request."

City Councilwoman Kay Crowder, who represents the area, plans to meet with the homeowner building the accessory structure and city staff later this week. Staffers notified her of the issue after WRAL News asked about it.

Kissee said Raleigh needs to enforce its building codes and that she and her husband shouldn't have to act as a watchdog organization.

"We're the ones who had to find the part of the city code that was illegal. We're the ones who had to talk to the city and say we had lawyer and we were serious about the code being enforced."

The couple wants the structure torn down and for the city to own up to what she says is its mistake.

"I don’t know what it will take the city to have more process of procedures or whatever. It shouldn't fall on the average citizen to enforce the city of Raleigh's code," she said.


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  • John Barbara Oct 26, 4:29 p.m.
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    Colin Burch the 3rd, "The storage facilities - not sure what is driving these."

    Customer demand. If there were no need they wouldn't be built. Did you EVER bother to take a class in economics in College? These banks, drug stores, and storage facilities are built because people are using them and they generate a profit for the owners. There is no municipal "Department for Stuff Colin Wants" that allocates banks and storage facilities to various areas. No one cares what you want or what you think looks pretty. If the property owners realize they can make a profit building a retain bank branch, restaurant, or drug store that's really none of your concern. If they fail to make a profit the property will be transitioned to some other use and no, your input is not needed there either.

  • John Barbara Oct 26, 4:25 p.m.
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    "Jack Reason", actually, you have no right to dictate how a property owner builds or otherwise utilizes their property unless there is real harm, not the imaginary harm these folks cite, to others. You authoritarians love to dictate the terms and conditions of other people's lives to them. How about you keep your hands to yourself and mind your own business for a change?

    If you see a child being attacked, that's an actual crime, your neighbor building a home and garage on his own property when you want the lot to remain undeveloped for your personal benefit, that's not a crime.

  • Colin Burch III Oct 26, 4:14 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    So you would not object, if you had 1/4 acre lot with house in a residential neighborhood, if someone bought a few lots next to you and built a 10 story apartment building? Or maybe the Bieber builds a large complex and has a few dozen of his closest friends over each weekend to enjoy his pool with lots of music? Or how about the neighbors decide that every house has to have a different color and the full color wheel is open for use. You wouldn't care that your property value declines by 25-50%? The people who moved into the neighborhood in question knew what the requirements are for the neighborhood. The builder had to also know.

  • Colin Burch III Oct 26, 3:55 p.m.
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    It is quite surprising that whoever was evaluating this garage mahal thought it was appropriate in size and shape for the location. Doesn't appear to be Raleigh PC.

  • Colin Burch III Oct 26, 3:51 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    AMEN, even multiple mattress shops of same brand in the same shopping area. The storage facilities - not sure what is driving these. Several years ago I had one for a while until I realized I was paying much more for a year of storage than the value of the items being stored. The emotional attachment became unimportant. When I see a storage facility I wonder if people have done the same analysis.

  • B.c. Jimmy Oct 26, 3:25 p.m.
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    I would not recommend to anyone buying a house in raleigh. I grew up here and fled in 2001.

  • Barney Gravel Oct 26, 1:10 p.m.
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    You are perfectly right Mr. Roberts, so many in society cannot stand it if someone has something. Every time I build and develop I run into the most incredibly spiteful and hateful people. I always win, as I have followed the rules, but paying lawyers is tiresome.

  • Johnny Roberts Oct 26, 12:05 p.m.
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    This is a perfect example of people not minding there own business. They got a permit to build and that's what they've done. Rules still apply and if they built after permit was granted then oh well. Its the Cities screwup. Don't stop the homeowner from building what he wanted. There's always some clown in every neighborhood that wets their pants cause someone has something they dont. I'm pretty sure I seen a fence separating the property. Just stay on your side of the fence and all will be cool. Didn't your parents teach you to mind your own business and not to stick it in grown folks business. And if they didn't then here's a perfect example of a hillary supporter. Someone that wants to tear down people hopes and dreams. Hope he gets to keep the garage and builds a 30 ft high wall between his property and theirs.

  • John Barbara Oct 26, 11:17 a.m.
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    It's interesting to see people argue about what their neighbors should be allowed to do with their own property in this allegedly "free" country. The authoritarians are running amok.

  • Sandy Smith Oct 26, 11:04 a.m.
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    Mr. Pittman and Mr. Denton...Obviously you own now property or you what not voice such stupid comments. The property owner is doing exactly what she should be doing...Protecting her investment!! Don't blame her for this. Blame the government officials who caused this horrendous mistake. It is their problem and they should correct it as well as be held accountable. Terminate the person who made the mistake. Next time you vote in your officials, maybe you will think about this issue along with the Oakwood problems.