Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Arabs worry as Dearborn eyes garage rule revision

Posted by on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:09 PM
  • 68 Replies

Arabs worry as Dearborn eyes garage rule revision

Print
Create a hardcopy of this page
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2013 12:24 pm | Updated: 2:02 pm, Sun Jun 30, 2013.

As early summer days on Orchard Street draw to a close, sliding doors open, inviting fresh air and neighbors into side-by-side garages.

More patio than parking place or storage for power tools, Mariam Khalaf said her garage is primarily for "chilling purposes" _ including smoking, eating and watching TV with family and friends, including next-door neighbors Muheeb Nabulsy and his wife, Fatima Mkkawi.

Khalaf and Nabulsy say gathering in their east-side garages never invited scrutiny until they installed the sliding doors last year in front of the more traditional electric ones. Now, officials in the Detroit suburb are looking at changing an ordinance on garage use, arguing that as people get a little too comfortable hanging out in the garage, more cars are clogging side streets.

Many who've made the unsanctioned transition are among Dearborn's nearly 100,000 Arab-American residents, one of the largest such communities outside of the Middle East and a third of the city's population. The garages are a continuation of marathon socializing sessions that started many years ago in their home countries under shady trees, often accompanied by coffee and a water pipe, known as a hookah or argileh.

"They migrated over time to the garage as an extension of the living place, and here comes the complaint from people who don't have that as part of their tradition," said Nabeel Abraham, a Dearborn resident and an instructor and administrator at a Dearborn community college. "I think it's a class, ethnic reaction."

Not so, say Dearborn officials, who say the ordinance-tightening isn't meant to target Arabs or anyone else. They don't want the garages, which they contend aren't built to the same standards as the rest of a home, to become "habitable" places for cooking or sleeping.

They say the structures aren't meant to be living spaces, so building permits can't be issued to convert them. That conversion, city spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said, is not only illegal but also isn't inspected for safety.

"We're trying to find a solution that is safe and acknowledges the way garages are being used," she said.

Khalaf and Nabulsy attended a meeting this spring to explain what they do in their garages _ and what they don't. They were each issued citations last summer and the doors were inspected, though their court challenges are ongoing.

Laundroche said the city is trying to work with residents and enforcement "has been put on hold."

The interiors of Nabulsy's and Khalaf's garages resemble patios outfitted with furniture, TVs and tile floors, but also incorporate storage areas typical of any garage.

Nabulsy said he and his wife were inspired by sliding doors on a nearby garage after renovating their house. They no longer wanted to smoke inside their home but liked having fresh air, a street view and protection from insects and the elements, so they installed their own.

But both said they received "stop-work orders" and visits by a city inspector. Nabulsy said an inspector came twice and saw nothing objectionable, but he hasn't yet received a permit.

"When (the inspector) entered the garage, he said, `I don't know why I'm here,'" Nabulsy said over coffee and cigarettes during a recent evening in Khalaf's garage. Both even fashioned ramps that allow vehicles to get over the door frames and into the garage.

What any new ordinance will say is unclear. A city attorney is still working on a draft of the revision, which is expected to be ready for the Planning Commission's consideration at its July 8 meeting. An early version prohibited sliding doors and tile floors.

What's tricky is how to define "living space."

"I think your home is your home," said commission Chairman Gary Errigo. "There was someone who spoke who said they're sitting in their garage in a lounge chair and a police car drives by and they pack up their chair and run inside. It shouldn't be like that, and it's not like that."

Errigo uses his garage for his passions: car collecting and art. And he knows of many _ Arabs and non-Arabs _ who do the same.

"The garage ordinance currently says you have to be able to park your car into your garage. Well, there's a lot of folks who just can't do that. Not because they live in their garage, but because they have stuff. ... Man caves, and that kind of thing _ this is the era we're in."

Errigo doesn't think having a spare refrigerator in the garage is a problem, but he doesn't want the structures to become crash pads or places where meals are prepared. In that case, they should be evaluated and taxed accordingly.

If the ordinance is approved by the Planning Commission, the City Council will have the final say.

Abraham said city officials will have to ensure that any changes are enforced evenly and fairly across ethnic, class and neighborhood lines.

"What's the difference between sitting together and smoking an argileh or cigar and having tea, or having a homemade brew?" said Abraham, who doesn't have a garage hangout. "This town has a law for everything and anything _ (it) needs to loosen up a little bit."

___

Follow Jeff Karoub on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffkaroub

by on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:09 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
smalltowngal
by Platinum Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:34 PM
I know when I lived in Dearborn, there was some tension over housing. People complained that Arabs built too large of houses on smaller lots.
muslimahpj
by Ruby Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:35 PM


Quoting smalltowngal:

I know when I lived in Dearborn, there was some tension over housing. People complained that Arabs built too large of houses on smaller lots.

I remember living in Flat Rock, that lots of people converted their garages into extra rooms.

IDK. 

Did they have permits for the homes? If so, to bad for them.

Woodbabe
by Woodie on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:38 PM
8 moms liked this

Errigo doesn't think having a spare refrigerator in the garage is a problem, but he doesn't want the structures to become crash pads or places where meals are prepared. In that case, they should be evaluated and taxed accordingly.

And right here is the problem...its not TAXABLE SPACE. If they're going to try taxing garages if people hang out there, what's next? The backyard patio with grill on it?

smalltowngal
by Platinum Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:46 PM
I am assuming they did. There was definately a difference in style. There were 2-3 bedroom cape cod brick homes torn down and replaced by these large homes that were a bit more ornate. I must say even for me, it was strange to see mansion like homes that took up most of the lot next to these much smaller, older homes.


Quoting muslimahpj:


Quoting smalltowngal:

I know when I lived in Dearborn, there was some tension over housing. People complained that Arabs built too large of houses on smaller lots.

I remember living in Flat Rock, that lots of people converted their garages into extra rooms.

IDK. 

Did they have permits for the homes? If so, to bad for them.


Mommabearbergh
by Gold Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:46 PM
2 moms liked this

honestly is it really any different then putting a fridge and freezer in there with a couch. Hell for a lot of guys that is the man cave in some places. Yeah I feel like its not as big of a deal as it is being made out to be.

muslimahpj
by Ruby Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 4:48 PM


Quoting smalltowngal:

I am assuming they did. There was definately a difference in style. There were 2-3 bedroom cape cod brick homes torn down and replaced by these large homes that were a bit more ornate. I must say even for me, it was strange to see mansion like homes that took up most of the lot next to these much smaller, older homes.


Quoting muslimahpj:


Quoting smalltowngal:

I know when I lived in Dearborn, there was some tension over housing. People complained that Arabs built too large of houses on smaller lots.

I remember living in Flat Rock, that lots of people converted their garages into extra rooms.

IDK. 

Did they have permits for the homes? If so, to bad for them.


I bet it looked odd. lol

gdiamante
by Silver Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 5:08 PM
2 moms liked this

Wait a sec...

People put CARS in their garages???? Then what's the driveway for? :-D

One quarter of our garage is taken up with my son's science lab, two quarters for storage and the last bit for one car.

AlekD
by Gold Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 5:13 PM

That's silly. People hang out in their garages here all the time and no one raises an eyebrow. Who cares??

lizzielouaf
by Gold Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 5:21 PM
1 mom liked this


Lol my husband uses the garages for all his "projects." His little buddies come over and they "help" with the projects. I don't think I've parked in the garage for at least 8 years.

Quoting gdiamante:

Wait a sec...

People put CARS in their garages???? Then what's the driveway for? :-D

One quarter of our garage is taken up with my son's science lab, two quarters for storage and the last bit for one car.



jaxTheMomm
by Platinum Member on Jun. 30, 2013 at 5:26 PM
1 mom liked this

Unless there was already a law in place that states that your vehicle must always be parked in your garage (as opposed to driveway, street, etc) then I think it's tough shit.

I can understand the city's problem - too many cars parked on the street - but you can't dictate what people do in their non-living space garage.

Mine is pretty much for storage, bikes & motorcycles.  You couldn't get a car in there if you tried, and then what would I do with all the things stored in there??

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)