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City code changes to regulate metal buildings in northeast Apache Junction
The yellow area of the map is the focus for the new ordinance, although it will affect all of R1-43. (Graphic special to the Independent, provided by Apache Junction Planning and Zoning.)

Changes to the Apache Junction city code will soon begin regulating preconstructed metal buildings in the city's northeast region, officials said.

These changes are aimed toward Quonset huts and other prefabricated metal buildings larger than 120 square feet in size with corrugated siding and within the city's R1-43 zoning district north of Superstition Boulevard and east of Tomahawk Road.

"It won't prohibit these types of buildings, but will help manage and regulate them in a way that makes sense," said Brad Steinke, the director of development services for Apache Junction.

These changes came about after 105 Apache Junction residents from the affected district petitioned against these types of buildings, according to the ordinance from the mayor and city council.

"It was a grassroots movement from the community that brought this issue before the planning and zoning board. There was a real concern with these Quonset huts being allowed in these residential areas," Mr. Steinke said. "This has been going on since November, so finally, these issues are coming to a head and being resolved."

A Quonset hut is typically a preconstructed metal building that has a curved half-pipe ceiling enclosed with walls. This design, used heavily in the military, allows the building to stand without any internal supports.

"These buildings are efficient but ugly," Mr. Steinke said. "That was the common theme from both sides in this discussion."

Even the residents who wanted to keep the huts made that concession, Mr. Steinke said.

"It's not that these people had a problem with all metal buildings. They just didn't want to see a 15-foot metal sided building five feet from their property line. That's just overpowering," he said.

Along with Quonset huts, buildings with unpainted galvanized metal and corrugated fiberglas sidings are also expressly prohibited by the ordinance.

Accessory buildings not prohibited by this ordinance must be limited to 2,000 square feet and 20 feet high.

As these buildings go up in height, they must be built further away from adjoining property lines, about double the height of the building, Mr. Steinke said.

These permitted structures must also be treated with factory applied earth tone paint, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance does not prohibit accessory structures between the house and road or limit the number of accessory structures on a property.

In January, the Apache Junction City Council voted 4-3, recommending that changes be made. At the July 17 council meeting, the proposed changes passed with a unanimous vote and will be enacted within 30 days of the meeting.

The R1-43 zoning district does not allow for preconstructed homes, so having these preconstructed auxiliary buildings seemed like a loophole to many residents from the area, Mr. Steinke said.

"We have a lot of preconstructed homes in Apache Junction, so this zoning district was created to be a unique, higher quality district that only allows for site-built homes. When they saw this fairly large Quonset hut style building, they said to themselves ‘hold on, that's not allowed in this zoning district.'"

The owner of this original hut was convinced by other residents to not complete the building, Mr. Steinke said.
"We issued this man a building permit because, at the time, it did comply with our code, but those grassroots people from the community kind of jumped on it before it got a chance to go up," Mr. Steinke said.

R1-43 zoned property includes portions of undeveloped land near the north and east borders of Apache Junction, but only the one-square-mile zone north of Superstition Boulevard and east of Tomahawk Road was in mind by this ordinance, Mr. Steinke said.

"That land may never be developed because it's either part of a state trust or owned by the federal government. That's R1-43 land, but it's not really the focus of this regulation," he said of the region near the north and east borders of the city.

Nonetheless, these undeveloped lands must follow the new ordinance, Mr. Steinke said.

The council was preparing to issue an ordinance earlier this year, but concerns from the horse community within the affected district prompted the council to help mediate between the two groups, Mr. Steinke said.

"The horse community in that area thought that if you prohibit these types of building that it would inhibit their horse culture, so there was a friction between these two groups that live in that that area," Mr. Steinke said. "The council said ‘time out' and helped the groups work it out."

The council brought in a mediator to help the groups, and along with Mr. Steinke and five representatives from either side, they were able to work out an agreement.

"We were able to sit down and hammer out an arrangement. We found some common ground that turned into the proposed ordinance," Mr. Steinke said.

Vice Mayor Rick Dietz also followed the discussions between the groups.

"It was a resident-initiated phase. It's the residents that wanted this change to the ordinance, not the city," he said. "The other group didn't want these changes so extensive, and it actually ended up being a pretty awesome deal for both sides. They just got together and worked it out. That kind of thing doesn't really happen."

An option within the ordinance allows for the size restriction of 2,000 square feet to be increased to 5,000, but only if the property owner can get all of his or her neighbors to agree.

"The maximum structure size established above for properties with R1-43 base zoning may be increased to 5,000 square feet if 100 percent of the property owners of adjacent properties and 50 percent of the property owners of those properties within 80 feet of the adjacent properties agree with the proposed increase through a petition that is drafted, signed and acknowledged in accordance with Development Services Department standards," the ordinance states.

Called a neighborhood petition, Mr. Steinke believes that this option may help avoid zoning disagreements in the future.

"It's direct legislation by the neighborhood, not by a council or board that is disassociated with the issue," Mr. Steinke said. "The ordinance may not let you build that type of structure, but the neighborhood can trump it if they want to."

This system is unique in Apache Junctions Planning and Zoning, but if it is successfull, Mr. Steinke hopes it will be implemented into future ordinances.

"Most, if not all, zoning issues could be solved if all the neighbors involved just sat down and talked to each other before building something," he said. "That just doesn't happen a lot, so we provided them a mechanism to help them do just that."

Vice Mayor Dietz was also surprised by the issue's resolution.

"I just think its super awesome how everyone came together. It blew me away," he said. "I think congress and the senate could take some lessons on how people are dealing with these problems here."

Post your opinions at arizona.newszap.com. News Editor Alexander Foote can be contacted at 623-445-2775 or via e-mail at afoote@newszap.com.

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