New outbuilding rules put to test with request at Tuesday’s meeting

Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

The City of Sonora Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday for its first conditional-use permit application, following the June passage of a city ordinance allowing residents to construct minor accessory buildings on their properties, according to City of Sonora Community Development Director Rachelle Kellogg.

Keith Designs, a Jamestown company, has applied for a permit on behalf of two Sonora residents who would like to replace an existing structure on their residential property with a 115.5-square-foot gazebo, according to the meeting agenda.

The gazebo will encroach onto the front parcel of the Shepherd Street property by no more than 6 feet, 8 inches.

One of the residents, Tom Aitkin, did not know he was the first applicant when reached Thursday, but said he thinks the city will approve the gazebo.

"I'm not worried about it," he said.

Applying for the permit costs $325 and requires a public hearing before the Planning Commission at a regular meeting.

The City Council passed the ordinance on June 18, allowing residents to construct temporary minor buildings of no more than 120 square feet within their rear and side yard setbacks on their properties by applying for a conditional use permit. Setbacks are typically about 10 feet from the property line.

Temporary minor accessory structures are defined as gazebos, garden sheds, playhouses, greenhouses and art studios, according to meeting documents.

Garages and carports are governed by a separate city code.

Conditions for deciding whether to approve an application include a need for the structure and the impact on neighboring properties.

City planning commissioners first proposed the ordinance in March in response to a growing number of requests from residents wishing to build small structures such as playhouses and garden sheds in property setbacks.

In other business, the Planning Commission will:

Revise a carport ordinance.

Discuss the California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616.

Hear the Community Development Director's Report.

Hold a public hearing for an application submitted by Tewolde Berhane of Addis Construction, related to a design review to add two exterior windows to an existing commercial structure on Washington Street.

Hold a public hearing for an application by a Sonora resident for a variance reducing the required rear-yard setback from 15.5 feet to 9.5 feet to allow a 108-square-foot expansion of a pre-existing nonconforming use in conjunction with converting the structure from a storage shed to a second dwelling unit.

Contact Christina O'Haver at or 588-4526.

The Union Democrat
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