Raleigh homeowners blame city for 'Garage Mahal'
Posted October 25
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.