Middletown residents who want to add a garage, shed, workshop, or other building in their backyards may soon have new rules to follow, as the town considers changes to its rules covering such accessory structures.
Zoning Administrator Mark Hinkle briefed Burgess John Miller and the town commissioners at a recent workshop about the town’s policies for accessory structures, as well as the policies of several other municipalities.
The issue arose after a property owner in the town built a large garage, and surrounding neighbors questioned whether the building was allowed under the town’s code, Town Administrator Drew Bowen said in an email Friday.
The code does allow what was built, and the town’s commissioners felt they should review the standards for accessory structures to see if there should be an amendment, Bowen said.
“I guess you don’t know you have a problem until you have a problem,” Hinkle told the burgess and commissioners Thursday.
The town’s current code allows one-story accessory buildings of up to 25 feet in height, as long as the building doesn’t occupy more than 30 percent of a yard, among other restrictions.
The problem with the 30 percent rule is that, if you have a 10,000-square-foot property, you could have a 3,000-square-foot accessory structure, Hinkle said Thursday.
“That’s a big building,” he said.
The 25-foot height limit also seems excessive for a one-story building, he said.
Most of the other municipalities whose policies he reviewed allow a structure to occupy at least 30 percent of the rear yard and be as close as 6 feet from the property line, and more than half of them limit the height of buildings to between 15 and 20 feet, Hinkle said in a memo to the town.
The other municipalities included Myersville, Mount Airy, Taneytown, New Windsor, Manchester, Havre de Grace, and Antrim, Pennsylvania.
Myersville allows accessory buildings in rear yards, but requires them to be at least 10 feet from alleys and at least 6 feet from the lines of any adjoining lots, according to Hinkle’s memo.
Taneytown requires buildings to be at least 10 feet from a street line or 5 feet from a property line, and limits them to 15 feet height.
While limiting structures and fences to backyards, Havre de Grace allows accessory structures to no more than 50 percent of a yard, rather than the 30 percent common in most of the other municipalities.
Proposed changes to Middletown’s code include limiting buildings to 10 feet in height, or 15 feet including the roof.
The changes would also require that accessory structures be either less than half of the footprint of the principal building on a property, or 600 square feet,
The accessory structures issue will next be taken up at a joint meeting of the town’s burgess, commissioners and Planning Commission in October, and then at a town meeting later that month.