Setback Line Change Causes Setback for Evansville Barn Builders

For Evansville homeowners wanting a yard barn and the companies that build them, three feet has made a world of difference. A new ordinance passed by the City Council in late April has had an inadvertent and adverse affect on some local small businesses.

Six weeks ago, the City Council approved an ordinance which was intended to make the process easier for homeowners wanting to build a yard barn or other large structure on an adjacent property. With the city's landbank fully operational and an increasing number of vacant, available lots up for grabs, city officials deemed the ordinance change to be a prudent move.

"The way I was reading [the ordinance] and the way the City Council attorney was reading it, we thought [the setback line] was still two feet," Council President Missy Mosby (D-2nd Ward) said. "But the way the Area Plan Commission was interpreting it, it was all properties in the city and county that would have a five foot setback."

The ordinance that the council passed -- as the APC interpreted it -- changed the property setback line from two feet to five feet, meaning that no new yard barn or other structure could be built within five feet of the property line. That change of three feet led to a bevy of customers at Evansville-based Better Built Barns on Morgan Avenue to either cancel or wait for clarification.

"I'm losing business over it. People are just really upset," said Frances Turpin. "I know it's just been an impact with my business."

The longer setback line might not seem like much. However, when it's coupled with other requirements as well as the layout of the property itself, the change had serious consequences, Turpin said.

"There's all the different kinds of things that play in effect with that five foot [setback line]," Turpin said. "There are slope issues. If somebody has a patio there already or a swimming pool, playground equipment or if children want to play in the backyard, well, now you have a yard barn smack in the middle of the backyard."

Turpin began to reach out to city officials about the issue. Her concerns caught the attention of Councilwoman Mosby who vowed to issue a fix. Mosby too was adversely affected by the ordinance change after she wanted to build a carport on her personal property, she said.

"It was a good ordinance but it was just interpreted several different ways," Mosby said. "We needed to put some clarity with it. Before the ordinance, I never received a single complaint about it. I didn't hear from any businesses. After that, a couple of days after Area Plan sent notices out to these businesses, I was inundated with phone calls."

On Thursday, the APC unanimously approved a new ordinance that would revert the property setback line to the original two feet for people living in the city. County residents, however, are still bound by the five foot setback mark, Mosby said. The new ordinance will go before the City Council for first reading on Monday.

Turpin is thankful the issue could be corrected quickly.

"I said once this [new ordinance] gets passed, I have a stack of permits that I'm ready to pull because they're just waiting," Turpin said.
 


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