Owners seek special permits for outbuildings as homes are delayed

David Craig of Manti in front of a building designed to house chickens. Craig wants to put a sink with a drain in the building, but so far Manti City has refused to extend water and sewer to his half-acre property until he takes out a building permit for a home.

There’s clearly a lot of home building activity in Sanpete County this summer.

But some people who have bought residential lots are postponing construction because the cost of lumber and other materials has shot up the cost of their homes. Meanwhile, some of them want to build garages and other outbuildings.

That is creating a dilemma for cities, which generally have ordinances, or at least unwritten practices, of not granting building permits for accessory structures until the owner takes out a building permit for a home.

In Fairview, the city council granted a permit last week to part-time resident named Jill Parry. Her family wants to move to Fairview permanently and has purchased a building lot.

Parry said she merely wants to build a detached garage. She’s not seeking to have utilities extended to the property right now.

“We’ll add power (to the garage) when we build our residence,” she told the Fairview City Council on Thursday, July 15. “We’re hoping to start next spring at the latest.”

Meanwhile, Manti is facing a more controversial case in which David Craig, a current city resident, has already been given a permit for a small building to house chickens on a new home lot. Power has already been extended to the property. Now Craig wants to hook up to water and sewer so he can put a sink in the building.

The city staff refused to accept Craig’s water and sewer connection fees. The Manti City Council has taken up his case twice and postponed a decision both times.

Craig’s half-acre lot is located at 540 Union Street south of the Manti Stake Center. “We’re doing it backwards,” he told the Manti City Council on July 7. He said he’s building the “chicken coop” while “waiting for building materials costs to drop to move forward with the home.”

Craig wants to have the sink with a drain in the building so “after working with my garden, working with chickens, I can get cleaned up.” And during the winter after secondary irrigation is turned off, he will need culinary water for the chickens.

He says a Manti City ordinance is clear that a resident must have a building permit for any structure that is more than 200 square feet. His chicken building is larger than that.

But both Craig and Kent Barton, the Manti city manager, say there’s nothing in the city code or in any written policy barring the city from bringing water and sewer from the city main to a property line before a building permit for a home is issued.

It’s simply longstanding practice, going back 30 years, to not extend water and sewer to a lot until after a residential building permit is issued, Barton says. “We usually do the hookup once construction starts.”

Craig has fenced the back half of his lot for fruit trees and vegetable gardens. He said the other half fronting the street is clearly intended for a home. 

Craig says the large, expensive house caddy corner from his house has an outbuilding with water and sewer. Recently, after Manti passed its ordinance allowing outbuildings to be converted to accessory dwelling units, the building was converted into an apartment.

And, he says, there’s a large metal building east of his home that has never had a home on it. The building has water and sewer.

Barton says the owner caddy corner from Craig’s lot built an accessory building some time after completing his house, and extended water and sewer from the house to the additional building. That is allowed.

And, he says, the owner of the lot with the large metal building took out a building permit for a house and a permit for the metal accessory building at the same time. According to Barton, that owner recently started building the house.  

Craig says he’s complied with “everything that’s written” in order to get a sink in his chicken building. “I’m only asking for what everybody else has,” he says.

But Barton says Craig is not being singled out. “We’re just treating him like anyone else.”