Ashton woman says city denied permit for ramp so her husband could use with wheelchair; city says it did not meet requirements
ASHTON — A local woman says her husband has been having health issues and needs a ramp for a wheelchair outside of their home, however, they’ve been told the ramp does not meet city code.
Karon Robertson and her husband George have been living in their Ashton home for the past 10 years. There are steps outside of their house. Karon explained her husband had back surgery about a year ago and he began to grow weaker, so the steps have become more difficult.
“He started to fall a lot. He fell several times, and I’ve had to call 911 for a lift assist, and so he told me, ‘I am terrified to go down those steps,'” Karon said.
The last time he had surgery was in June. Karon said she called some friends to help him down their steps. He ended up falling again, and they had to take him outside in a wheelchair.
“I have fallen in the house probably 20 times and then outside, probably five or six (times). My legs are what’s weak now,” George told EastIdahoNews.com.
A local church across the street offered to build a ramp for George, and it was eventually installed.
A permit was filed for the ramp with the city of Ashton. However, the permit was denied.
“We were told by the city to take it down because it did not meet setback rules of 15 feet from the property line,” Karon said.
She said she was told the ramp could go in the back of their home, but Karon said that’s just not possible.
“There’s so much snow in Ashton. There’s no way you could get to the back in the winter time, and besides that, my back door would not allow a wheelchair through there. But in the meantime, my husband has had major health problems and has had surgery, and he’s in a rehab facility (in Rexburg), and he’s been there for a few months,” she said.
Karon and George have had a lot of people advocating for them. A post on Facebook in a local group created by Susan Sullivan has gained traction and support for the Robertsons.
Karon is hoping the ramp can stay so that when George does finally come home from the rehab facility, he can have it to use.
“I will be in a wheelchair … or a walker. That ramp will help immensely,” George said.
Those helping the Robertsons have submitted an appeal for the denial of the permit on their behalf.
The next step is a public hearing.
In a notice issued by the city clerk, it states, “George and Karon Robertson built a ramp … in Ashton even though the Class One Zoning Permit was denied because it did not meet the setback requirement. The applicants were told they needed to come into compliance with the code. The applicants are appealing this denial.”
“The way our code works here within Planning and Zoning is that people put in a permit and then the administrator who is currently me does some measurements and makes a decision based on a Class One Permit. If they don’t meet the regulations that are set forth in the city code, then the permit gets denied,” said Sara Bowersox, city of Ashton’s planning and zoning administrator. “We are bound by that public code.”
Bowersox said that according to city code, the Robertsons’ home is in a lower-density residential zoning district. The city code says the minimum front setback for that zone is 15 feet from the property line.
In the Facebook post written by Sullivan, she said, “Most houses are about 15 to 18 feet from their property line. Anyone could need a ramp at some time, and with this ordinance, they could not have one out the front of the house.” She would like to see it changed or allowances made for the Robertsons.
But Bowersox said there is a set of requirements in each area or zone where people are living. Every piece of property in that zone is held to those requirements.
A public hearing will take place on Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers at 714 Main Street in Ashton. Public comment is encouraged.
“At that point, the city presents its position, and the applicant presents their position. We take comment from the public,” said Bowersox.
Bowersox said they will cite specific issues as to why the permit was denied. The City Council will be present at the public hearing and will be the ones to ultimately make a decision if the ramp gets to stay.
Karon is hoping for the best.
“I have mixed emotions. I kind of feel like I am being kicked when I am down, but then again, the people here (helping me) have been so wonderful to me,” Karon said.