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Gazebo request meets stiff opposition
Gazebos are generally round structures that shade benches. - photo by Stock photo

All Troy Burns wants is to put a gazebo in his front yard. But at least one of his neighbors, the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission staff and a majority of the Planning Commissioners don’t like the idea.

Burns and his wife, Jean Rush, purchased their home on Pear Orchard Road in April. The previous owners cut down some trees in the front yard and ground out the stumps.

In the narrative submitted to the LCPC, Burns wrote, “This has exposed a massive bare spot with roots covering the ground on which nothing will grow. As we, the homeowners, and passersby will notice, it is a very bad eyesore to the community.”

The homeowners want to place a gazebo over the bare spot and landscape around it. However, according to a Hinesville zoning ordinance, “accessory structures” are not allowed in the front yard.

The property is zoned R-1, single-family dwelling, which requires a minimum front-yard setback of 50 feet for the home. The proposed gazebo would be 33 feet from the street.  Rush filed a variance request to allow for the gazebo in the front.

The LCPC staff recommended disapproval of the variance request because the gazebo is considered an accessory structure.

Lynn Pace, assistant vice chairwoman of the Planning Commissioners, said during a June 16 LCPC meeting that she was concerned with the definition of “accessory structure.” A definition she found online defined it as a structure used for parking, storage, garage, car ports and other similar uses.

“This isn’t an accessory structure. It’s a decorative place for people to sit. I have a problem with the definition,” Pace said.

She also has seen other gazebos, benches and swing sets in other people’s front yards in the city.

Executive Director Jeff Ricketson said the LCPC staff discussed the definition of “accessory structure” at length. The staff interpreted the gazebo as an accessory structure because it has a roof and contains people. He also mentioned that playground equipment fits the definition, according to the ordinance.

Burns said, “It’s our home now. We just want to make it as beautiful as can be. There’s so many houses for sale. We want them to be able to move there like we did. That’s the whole point of it. We’re just trying to do the best we can.”

When asked if he considered sodding the lawn, Burns said that it was too expensive. Adding the gazebo with decorative rock and plants would cost about $3,000, he said.

Neighbor Leonora Mizelle opposes placing the gazebo in the front yard.

“This neighborhood is a long-established neighborhood, and no one has ever tried to put anything like this in the front yard. We all abide by the ordinance that everything has to be behind the front line of the house,” Mizelle said.

Commissioner Durand Standard said he has nothing against gazebos but that he could not, in good conscience, vote against the ordinance and variance requirement.

The commissioners voted 8-1 to recommend disapproval of the variance request. Pace opposed because she did not agree with the definition of an accessory structure.

The variance request will go before the Hinesville City Council for final consideration.

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