Capping shed sizes

St. John's council to vote on limiting height, footprint of accessory buildings

Dave Bartlett
Published on April 28, 2012

There's no question, some people love their sheds. And these days, the out-buildings are being used for more than just storing garden tools and tires. They've become getaways, rec rooms and places to hold parties.

But because some people have asked the city for permission to build enormous sheds within St. John's, council is looking at putting restrictions on the height and area of the buildings and making sure they are not being used for apartments.

Taking action

Shed sizes was one of the agenda items when the city's planning committee met Wednesday.

Afterward, planning committee chairman Coun. Tom Hann told The Telegram council is acting now before oversized sheds become a major problem.

"We've had some sheds that are being built in neighbourhoods, and on lots, that sometimes the shed is bigger than the house," he said. "There's a number of issues that come with that."

One issue is the impact these large sheds may have on neighbours - from excessive shading to noise from parties - as well as fire safety concerns.

Because sheds can currently be built 0.6 metres from a property line, if two neighbours' sheds are the minimum distance it means they are only 1.2 metres apart. Houses, meanwhile, must be at least 2.4 metres apart as a way of preventing a house fire from spreading through a neighbourhood.

Taking action

Having a bigger shed also may require that it be inspected to meet national building codes.

"After (sheds go) over a certain square footage, then the national building code kicks in and then there's a whole different set of regulations ... when you're constructing it," said Hann.

There's also an issue of what the sheds may be used for.

It's illegal to use a shed as a residence, and some people have requested separate electric meters and even plumbing to be put into sheds.

Hann said the city hasn't got any formal complaints about large sheds, to his knowledge, but some neighbours have raised concerns.

In the past, people have come in with letters signed by their neighbours saying they approve of the large shed being built next door.

But Hann said later those neighbours have contacted the city to say they were put on the spot, and really didn't support what was being built next door.

The city's director of properties, David Blackmore, said it's no more than one in 10 sheds that is large enough to cause concern.

Taking action

Still, his department did some research and found cities such as Mount Pearl, Moncton and Edmonton have put rules in place to cap the size of sheds.

The new rules include that accessory buildings be a maximum of 35 per cent of a rear lot to a maximum of 55 square metres, that the maximum height be capped at 3.5 metres, that sheds be 1.2 metres from property lines and that electrical and plumbing services in sheds be limited to "accommodate storage or utility use only."

The council will vote on the proposed new rules at an upcoming regular meeting.

But any existing shed - at the time council passes the new rules - would be grandfathered in under the current rules.