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Cramped for space

Kathy Herried needed a little more room in her Medford house for her grandchildren, so she began thinking about converting her two-car garage to enlarge her living space.

“I just had a new grandbaby last night,” the east Medford resident said Monday. “I just need more living space.”

Herried, who uses her garage for storage rather than as a place for vehicles, discovered that Medford code wouldn’t allow converting a garage into living space, so she welcomes a proposal by the Planning Department to change the rules.

She said she doesn’t understand the city ordinance that requires residents to have a garage for vehicles, even if they don’t park anything inside it.

“If they’re not enforcing parking cars in the garage, what difference does it make?” Herried said.

The Medford Planning Commission seems to agree and has recommended allowing conversion of a garage as long as there is enough paved parking on a property for two spaces and no encroachment onto sidewalks by parked vehicles. Under existing code, driveways don’t count for off-street parking.

The Planning Commission recommendation could be voted on Thursday by City Council.

Medford planner Carla Paladino said that if the new ordinance is passed, residents will need to show they have adequate off-street parking before converting their garages. The driveway distance from the property line to the front of the existing garage will need to be sufficient to handle the length of a vehicle.

Other paved areas such as alongside garages might also qualify, she said.

Paladino said she has received two requests recently from residents who want to convert garages into living space.

Many cities require covered parking areas for vehicles unless the construction of the property predates current building codes. Most cities have many houses without garages or with just a single-car garage.

Herried said her current garage is used for storage and not for parking. She cites as an example a relative’s garage in Central Point that was converted into living space.

“It was very nicely done,” Herried said.

The house, owned by Ann Britt, was built in 1968, and the garage was converted into a play room and bedroom in 1974. More recently, the former play room has become her prayer room, and the bedroom portion of the garage is now once again a single-car garage. Britt said she is sure the garage conversion was done with all the required permits at the time.

However, under Central Point’s current building code, the requirement is to have two covered spaces per residence, which would mean either a carport or garage.

Tom Humphrey, Central Point community development director, said the state didn’t really have much in the way of building codes until the 1970s and 1980s.

Humphrey said some residents in the city who have three-car garages obtain permits to convert a portion into living space and still meet the code requirements of having two covered spaces.

He said he’s also had instances where planners have made mistakes and granted permission for people to convert their garages into living space.

As to Britt’s 40-year-old remodel of her garage, Humphrey said he wasn’t concerned.

“If it was enclosed in the '70s, we’re not going to go after her,” he said. “That’s water under the bridge.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or by email at dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterDM.

Kathy Herried of Medford looks out the window of Ann Britt's Central Point garage, part of which was converted into a prayer room. Herried wants to convert her own garage to make space for her grandchildren. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell