Rio Rancho prohibits garage conversions in some homes

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Rio Rancho’s Zoning and Planning Board will decide whether a family can make renovations to their own home.

Their construction was put on hold because the city said their new plans have to include a garage.

“We are just very frustrated,” said Dustie Beck about having to stop installing new floors in her family’s home garage.

She and her parents had plans to turn their garage into extra living space to make room for their growing family.

“I have three children who live with me at the moment and we needed to add additional space so we could either move my mom’s office — so my boys could have their own room,” she said. “More usable living space that was more comfortable, better insulated, energy efficient, all of that.”

However, the city put their construction work on pause, telling them they have to get a variance on the city’s garage ordinance before making any changes to their property.

“The frustration is we didn’t know there was an ordinance, first of all,” Beck said. “We didn’t realize we weren’t supposed to make changes in the home without having permits because we thought, in our own enclosed space we thought we could do with our property what we thought was necessary.”

The garage ordinance states a home must have an attached or detached garage with room for two enclosed parking spaces. Altogether, a property with at least three bedrooms like Beck’s has to be able to fit two cars in a garage and two cars in the driveway.

“If we were to convert the garage, we would have to build another garage on site which is impossible on this piece of property because it’s too small,” Beck said.

For those reasons and because the city code also prohibits people from converting garages of homes built after 1999, the Development Services Department is recommending the Planning and Zoning Board deny her family’s application for the garage variance.

Some other homeowners who never knew this ordinance existed say it’s unnecessary.

“As a homeowner, I feel I should do whatever I want with my space,” said Laura Frank of Rio Rancho.

Others said they don’t mind it because for them, having a garage is a matter of safety to prevent car theft; and because they say it keeps streets clear.

“I think it’s better just to keep it in the garage,” Brooke Preston of Rio Rancho said.

When asked why the ordinance exists, the city replied the ordinance “is a part of our community standards that has been in place for decades.”

The city of Albuquerque does not have any rules prohibiting a homeowner from converting a garage.

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