For any and all zoning regulations on a city's books, there should be a good reason. When a rule fails the test, it is time for citizens to take back their government and institute reasonable reforms.
In Fairmont, citizens serving on the zoning appeals board are bucking city staff's recommendations when it comes to at least one front porch variance request. The city requires a 30-foot setback from the front property line for a porch. But given the renewed popularity of front porches, more property owners are looking to add them, setting up more possible conflicts between City Hall and citizens.
At the same time, City Administrator Mike Humpal is looking for a bigger solution than granting variances on a case-by-case basis. He is working with the city's planning commission to review the city's setbacks, to see if there is a way to accommodate more porch construction. Other cities - facing the same issue - are allowing residents to build porches into the setbacks.
We believe citizens and City Hall can find a solution to this issue. There may be reasons to limit how close to a front property line someone can build. These include line of sight concerns, by neighbors and drivers, as well as the aesthetics of a neighborhood. But when it's clear that these issues are not in play and that the rules are simply being enforced for their own sake, it's time to suggest City Hall exists to serve citizens, not to quash their desires.