Carport owners taking on City Hall

Iola Battles stands in front of her carport on Tuesday that has been at the Battles’ home since 1997. The city wants homeowners like the battles’ to move their carports from their driveways.

By Jack King

Iola Battles doesn’t understand why the metal carport at her house is a problem and wants some answers from the city.
Battles is one of 170 people who signed a petition that was presented to the Clovis City Commission Thursday protesting a city campaign against the unpermitted, free-standing metal carports.
“I want a logical explanation for outlawing the carports,” Battles said. “I think the people who signed the petition were asking ‘Why now?’ Why are they enforcing this now? If there’s anyway to come up a solution to keep them, I’d like that.”
She added that she and her husband can’t afford to build an expensive building that would comply with all the city’s procedures and regulations.
Planning and Zoning Department director Lewis Gordon said the city adopted an ordinance forbidding free-standing accessory buildings in front yards in 1996. In 2001, it adopted building guidelines for carports. A carport must meet setback requirements and residents must obtain a building permit and provide a plat plan for the structure, Gordon said.
The fee for a building permit is determined by the size of the carport in square feet, with a minimum amount of $23.50. A plat plan is normally designed by an engineer and the cost varies, Gordon said.
Residents say the freestanding carports offer an affordable way to shelter their vehicles. They said city officials failed to tell them beforehand that their structures violated city codes and that sellers failed to warn them they needed a permit to put up the buildings.
“To me the law doesn’t make sense,” said Battles, who lives on West Manana Boulevard. She said the carport was on the house when they bought it in 1997, before the city ordinance was enacted.
“Our carport doesn’t look bad,” she said. “It doesn’t block anyone’s view. It matches our house and it’s anchored with steel rods into cement. It would be a hardship to have to tear it down and we’ve been told it could cost $7,000 to $8,000 to build one according to the city’s specifications. We can’t afford that.”
Robert Garcia, who lives on Cypress Street, said his carport cost him $595, with installation, and “at no time” did the vendor tell him he couldn’t put it in front of his house. He bought his carport in March or April and got a letter from the city about 10 days ago, he said.
“All they said was ‘You’ve got 10 days to remove your carport,’” he said. “It’s not bothering anybody and it’s making the neighborhood look nice. It’s already anchored in concrete. We had a heavy wind the other day that pulled shingles off our house and it didn’t move my carport.”
City Director of Inspections Marcus A. Brice said his department began sending letters to non-compliant carport owners about two months ago. City inspectors told residents they would have to remove the carports, he said.
Brice said the department began enforcing the ordinance after it received complaints from neighbors. Having built carports according to city specifications, the neighbors wondered why others could get away with using the less expensive metal buildings, he said.
Brice and Gordon also said, if not anchored properly, freestanding carports could pose a hazard in high winds.
As of June 12, 25 letters had been sent to residents living on the west side of Clovis. Brice said, prior to Thursday’s commission meeting, his office had planned to cite residents in all parts of the city.
A 60-day moratorium on the city’s enforcement efforts against the carports has been put in place while the city studies the matter, said Gordon.
George Judah of George’s Used Cars and David Whitener of David’s Firewood, both of whom used to sell the carports, said they did tell their customers they should check with the city about building regulations. Whitener said, after calling city officials two years ago, he was warned erecting the structures required a permit.