The Keller City Council unanimously approved at its Dec. 7 meeting a special use permit for a Keller family’s barn that has been controversial among neighbors.

The approval comes a year after the applicants—Jeffrey and Loren Abate—first went before the city’s planning and zoning commission on Oct. 27, 2020, according to the agenda item. The structure is located 200 feet southeast of the intersection of Rufe Snow Drive and Cobblestone Parks Drive.

Initially, the Abates requested a 2,000-square-foot barn, but it had already been constructed without a permit along with other work done on their home, the agenda item stated. Because the Abates built without a permit and some neighbors opposed it, it was denied by the commission.

The Abates then withdrew that request and demolished part of the structure to reduce the size to 1,200 square feet, according to the agenda item. The family obtained the building permit for the 1,200-square-foot structure on Dec. 9, 2020.

On Aug. 25 of this year, the Abates applied for a special use permit for an 800-square-foot expansion to the 1,200-square-foot barn, bringing the total size to 2,000 square feet. The planning and zoning commission recommended City Council approve the permit during a public hearing on Sept. 28.

According to a presentation at the Dec. 7 meeting by Keller Community Development Director Julie Smith, the planning and zoning commission was concerned at the Sept. 28 meeting with the lack of support from neighbors, “but stated issues between neighbors were a civil matter and strongly urged the applicants to work with their neighbors,” Smith said.

Because of that, emails were exchanged among neighbors and the Abates to plant trees between the barn and north property line.

The item went before the council on Oct. 19, where two of the Abates’ neighbors spoke against and one neighbor spoke in favor of approving the permit, meeting minutes stated. The opposing neighbors cited the Abates building without permission and the perceived unsightliness of the barn as the main reasons for the council not to approve the permit.

After lengthy discussion, a motion to approve the permit failed by a 3-4 vote, according to the minutes. The council then unanimously approved a motion to table the discussion until the next year—Oct. 18, 2022—and suggested the couple plant trees to create more division between the barn and surrounding neighbors. Council approved changing the revisit date to Dec. 7, 2021, at its Nov. 16 meeting.

At the Dec. 7 meeting, the Abates came before City Council with photos of the trees they planted behind the barn. The family has planted a total of 12 trees around the barn.

This time, no one spoke during the public comments portion for or against approving the Abates’ permit. After minimal questions, council approved the Abates’ special use permit unanimously.

“I wanted to say thank you to all of you for at least tabling it and then allowing us to come back,” Loren Abate said.