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Detached garage - area variance denied

Guest Jacques Matz

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Guest Jacques Matz

Hello, I really need some advies on the following. I want to build a three car garage to store and detail my cars. I already have a attached two car garage too small to accomodate my cars; It is simply not possible to work decently on my cars hence my request for a three car garage. The proposed detatched garage does meet the setbacks and height regulation but exceed the maximum area permitted by 374 Sq Ft. I presented my case before the board of zoning appeal here in VA Beach. They rejected my request because "this appears to be for the convenience of the applicant and self-imposed hardship". I explained that my land does not allow to build attached garage but this did not matter. There are hundred of detached garages here in VA Beach; I simply don't get their decision. I have 30 days to appeal this decision = Please give me some advies- how best could I describe the hardship????

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If you can prove that similar garage permits were issued recently for other residents exceeding the sq ft requirement with the same circumstances as you, then you might have a chance. If you can collect and present those facts in the appeal, that will indicate they set a precedent with the other permits.

If you are not able to find any similar instances where they made exceptions for others and the zoning requirements are clearly defined with no loop holes, it might be a tough battle.

I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you. For me, growing up and living in the country, it would be very difficult to be subjected to someone telling me what I can and can't build on my property. :(

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That's odd. Virginia localities are usually chomping at the bit on construction if they think they can get an extra tax dollar out of you.

See if you can get a variance. Zoning boards do it all the time for less worthy projects. If it meets the setbacks and allows adequate access for firefighting equipment, I don't see much reason they should deny it, but then again I'm not a zoning pinhead either.

I have found that many of them can be extraordinarily anal- like the one who insisted I had to rezone my property from agricultural to commercial because I was "building a VIR race shop". That move would have nearly tripled the tax rate on the property, which is what it was all about in the first place.

When I pointed out VIR had nothing to do with it, as my family had been there longer than the track had, he says "but you MIGHT do that in the future". Yeah, and I MIGHT just tear the whole thing down, sell all the old cars and you not get a damn dime of extra tax base.

A tersely worded letter from my lawyer solved the problem. Didn't hurt that two county commissioners are longtime family friends.

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Jacques, I too live in VA Beach. Ten years ago I built a 24x32 detached garage in my backyard. It exceeded the allowable at that time also. I explained that I was a hobbiest and had expensive vintage cars which could not stay outside. I explained that I would be doing light maintenance and restoration work on these vehicles. No neighbors objected which was a key element. The footprint on the property is also a consideration.

Give me a call if you like. 456-2806


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You know, Mickey, the caveat to that is if they're aware you have these cars, they will then try to find a way to tax them- never mind our VA property tax exemption for AV/AQ plates.

I argued with the City of Danville over that for years till I finally got things resolved, then when I changed the cars' registration address to Halifax County had to start all over again with them.

I'm not totally buying that "convenience of the applicant and self-imposed hardship" argument either, since I have seen many zoning variances granted for that same "convenience" reason.

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Jason Zerbini's advice is good. I was a city planner for 22 years, and staff to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and also the Planning Board in various cities where I worked. You need to find other instances with similar circumstances, otherwise, their reasoning is correct, and it is only for the current owner's convenience. So, find some other reasons that have to do with your piece of land, regardless of who might ever own it in the future. Are there some big trees you can't cut down? Is there a hill or a slope that prevents you from attaching the new garage to your house? Is the lot oddly shaped? Can you cut back the proposed size of the new garage? Can you make it smaller but taller, allowing for one of those storage lifts to be installed where one car is raised above the other?

One reason for % of lot coverage rules is that they are trying to prevent too much runoff from impervious buildings and surfaces. If everyone did it, they would have bad flooding problems. Offer to build a storm water detention area on a corner of your lot--it can be lined with grass and look just like the rest of the yard, only lower.

Sometimes, if you make an effort to compromise your plans a little bit, they will do the same.

Pete Phillips

Leonard, Texas

1949 Buick Super Estate Wagon

1950 Roadmaster 2-dr. ht.

1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk

1954 Buick Special 3-spd.

1954 Nash Ambassador Country Club hardtop

1958 Rambler Ambassador wagon

1959 Electra 2-dr. ht.

1962 Electra 225 4-dr. ht.

1963 Wildcat conv.

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I recognize that you may not like the idea, but call an attorney. You have already lost once and the appeal may be more difficult depending upon the standard of review. Often times people are intimidated by attorneys fees which can be mysterious. The bottom line is that if you don't call, you won't know. I have read your posts and you are in need of legal counsel. Call your local bar association or a solicitor for a neighboring municipality to represent you or to offer you a recommendation of someone to represent you. I think you'll be doing yourself a favor.

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