GILBERT — Controversy over a garage-building project in Gilbert continues, amid questions of whether permits were applied for and issued, specifications were followed and what can be done to settle the matter short of taking the structure down.
Homeowner and current city councilor Rocco Leoni had hired Shawn Parks of A to Z Carpentry to build a garage with a second story on the Leoni property. Mayor Karl Oberstar Jr. said in a phone interview that the garage needs to be brought into compliance with height restrictions, or that the second story needs to be converted to a garage apartment. The matter may end up in court, Oberstar said. "It's a mess, no doubt about it."
At an early September Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, which was tape-recorded, there was confusion as to whether proper permits had been applied for or given. Commission member Scott Dennie said a stop-work order had been issued to Leoni by the Planning and Zoning board, "but the structure has been substantially completed since that stop-work order was issued." Leoni was only to install a west window and the overhead garage door, because of the impending fall and winter weather, and no other work was allowed, Jim Paulsen, city administrator, said at the Planning and Zoning meeting. Paulsen told Leoni at the meeting, "You may lose your investment if the structure is ordered removed." Paulsen also said, "I went there with stop-work order... You're proceeding at your own risk." Contractor Parks said he had not seen a stop-work order posted on the garage.
Parks said, "I asked Rocco if he had a building permit, and he said yes, two-story. Come to find out they had given him a variance, but he was still supposed to get a permit. We built him a garage, and now they want us to take off the second story." Parks said he talked with Oberstar and Paulsen, and they want "something in writing that it's going to be done."
At the Planning and Zoning meeting a motion was made to give Leoni a "30-day window to come up with a new plan or begin taking the structure down." The next Planning and Zoning meeting is Oct. 7.
Leoni is to submit to the Planning and Zoning board his plans to resolve the matter. The board members are Dennie, Chairman Mark St. Lawrence, who was absent from the September meeting, Lonnie Gulbranson, Donovan Goblirsch and Beth Milos.
The permitting matter has been ongoing since 2013.
Milos, who was the Gilbert mayor before Oberstar, asked Leoni several questions at the Planning and Zoning meeting. "How did you pay for the permit?" she asked a number of times. Leoni answered that he has to reapply. Milos said, "So you knew that you didn't have a permit?" She also asked him if he had officially combined his property and his late mother's property next door.
Later in the exchange with Milos, Leoni said he thought he had a permit. Milos said, "A year and a half ago you realized you didn't have a permit. Why did you build your garage when you knew you didn't have a permit?" Leoni said, "I thought that the permit comes with a variance." There also was a question that Leoni had built too close to the alley.
At the meeting, City Attorney Brian Lindsay suggested "starting the variance procedure anew allowing the neighbors to come in and speak." Commission member Goblirsch said of the garage in question, "Is it really a problem to the neighborhood?" to which Milos said she has heard complaints from four people regarding the height of the building.
Resident Linda Milos, attending the Planning and Zoning meeting, said, "The law needs to be enforced. He's already gone against the law."
Dennie said, "Just about every way you look at this, it's wrong. We don't have a permit or variance, the structure is too tall and it's sitting on the right-of-way. The structure is going to have to be altered in a fashion where it would comply with the city ordinance."
Resident Bob Kivela, who has many years experience working with property matters, said at the meeting that Leoni had submitted a building permit application some years ago and Planning and Zoning had denied it.
Kivela said he then prepared a building plan for Leoni. "The garage he built now is not the garage I designed," said Kivela, who said he told Leoni the matter "is in your court now."
Later in the meeting Leoni said, "There are five people in this town that didn't have a permit."
In a call placed to Leoni, he said Parks will bring the garage down to a 16-foot height, work that will be completed next spring. "I'm at a standstill. I don't want to lose the whole garage. It's on my property," Leoni said.