Cities and towns can be very strict when it comes to what they will allow in regards to the types of buildings, and what they can be used for, within their limits. If you’ve ever lived in places with protected areas that aim to preserve the historic structures and aesthetic, then you know how picky and adamant the local laws and authorities can get.

Planning and zoning restrictions that govern where and how you can build certain structures can be a real pain in the rear to deal with. There’s a lot of red tape and paperwork to sort through before any permit is issued, if you’re lucky enough to even get one.

Eric Vekeman, a retired Belgium shop owner, was not so lucky. He was denied a permit by his local council because they believed his intended plans didn’t mesh well with the neighborhood aesthetic. Eric had owned and operated a food shop out of the ground level floor in his building and upon retiring he’d planned on converting the storefront into a garage to keep his car safe in.

Wanting to do the correct and legal thing, he first tried to get a permit and approval through the proper channels but as is common with these types of things, it was denied. The formal “no” left him with seemingly no other options, until he came up with an ingenious solution to solve his dilemma.

Since he couldn’t convert the space into a garage or install an automatic garage door, he got creative and worked around the restrictions. He secretly transformed his store into a garage anyways, and managed to do it in such a way that he’s fully compliant with all of the applicable laws.

His solution was to keep the overall storefront appearance intact and install a huge window that was big enough to accommodate his car. He built a special fake wall underneath the window and mounted both on hinges so they could be swung back and opened easily once he removes a special safety pin-lock.

With the glass out of the way, all he has left to do is place two small ramps down so that he can safely drive over the curb. Adding to the ‘hidden in plain sight’ concept of his garage is a nice, bright red bench placed in front of the window, which really ties it all together.

When he needs to go somewhere Eric moves the bench, opens the window, removes the fake wall, puts down the ramps, and drives out. Then he has to close it all up again, a process which he says takes him about 2 minutes.

The city council did end up finding out about his inventive garage, and they allowed him to keep it because it met their guidelines. Now Eric plans on making his garage door fully automatic, which should be easy considering all he’s come up with thus far!

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