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Zoning appeal - area variance denied!


Jacques Matz

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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 but it is really too small to accomodate my cars; It is simply not possible to work decently on my cars hence my request for a detached 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 many detached garages here in VA Beach; I simply don't get their decision. I have 30 days to appeal this decision; how best could I describe the hardship????<!-- google_ad_section_end -->

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Is there some loophole to call it something other than a garage? Here in Loudoun County, VA, farm outbuildings are exempt from those zoning requirements. What about an inlaw "apartment"? I remember one magazine article where, in a similar situation, the property owner built a "master bedroom" then after approval, replaced the sliding glass doors with garage doors. ;)

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I have the opposite problem. I have 19 acres here in Pa. and I want to build a barn. Because my property is zoned residential with an existing agricultural usage, I can continue my agricultural usage, but I am not allowed to expand the usage. As such, I can build all the garage I want, but I can't build a barn because that would be expanding the non conforming usage!!! I wonder if my steers would mind living in a garage??? I would recommend, as previously suggested to you, to build within the limits of the regulation and get something done, then look at an expansion.

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An old friend of ours was forced to build a pool-house and put in a small fiberglass pool; as local zoning will allow this usage.

His collector cars & antique music machines & other collections now reside in his so-called "Pool House" !

There are many ways of getting around stupid local zoning regulations !

Try to get your immediate neighbors on your side of this issue~~~

Have them sign-off on your proposed building project.

This really helps !

There is way too much government control out there telling homeowners what they can~~~and cannot do with their own property !

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No offence, but they are right.

Not having a 3 car Garage is NOT a Hardship. Even those of us that dont have any Garage, it isnt a hardship.

It is a luxury. Having 3 cars to work on besides a daily driver, is a luxury.

If you can even THINK about it, that it is a luxury too.

Ask a guy that is homeless what a hardship is. No offence, but those that are used to luxury expect others to think that the the loss of luxury is a hardship - it isnt.

Not being able to eat is a hardship, not being able to pay your electric bill is a hardship. In today's economy some of us are lucky to even have a car.

I was laid off in 2005, spent 3 years unemployed, no healthcare, my house is foreclosed upon and had to give up my car because I could not afford the insurance. It took me 2 weeks just to put away the money to join this club. .. Now I work my butt off for half of what I made in 2005, and please spare me the jokes, cause it isnt funny, because if you can joke about it, that is a luxury too. Donate the money to charity, if you want to part with it, please.

Again, please do not take offence, but I just had to throw in some perspective here.

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I'm on my township's planning commission and getting a waiver for something or other on the grounds of a "hardship" is almost never granted. If you go ahead and build something non conforming make sure you are real friendly with your neighbors because that's who will turn you in................Bob

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He bought too many old cars~~~

Like ME~~~

And now as no place to properly store them inside !

That is his, & MY,

"self imposed hardship" !

Hahahaha! I never looked at it that way....or I guess it could be self imposed, since I have to deal with my wife everytime :D

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Jacques, welcome to the world of politics. Ask around and get the advice of a real estate attorney in the area who 1) knows the law and 2) knows the people on the zoning board. You will have to spend some dollars, but the lawyer should be able to tell you why your variance was denied and what you need to do to build the garage. You just might not be able to build the garage the way you want, but in all likelihood there will be some compromise.

We on the forum can commiserate with you, but no one here can give you the advice you need. That can come only from someone who has worked local ordinances and the zoning board.

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We on the forum can commiserate with you, but no one here can give you the advice you need. That can come only from someone who has worked local ordinances and the zoning board.

Good advice for sure. Doing what you want to without the blessing of the authorities can be costly. Towns/cities have been known to force owners to remove/tear down unauthorized structures. And they take a dim view of folks that break the rules. And there is too good a chance that there will be a neighbor with nothing better to do than to turn you in.

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I to wanted to build a larger shop than was allowed. One neighbour did attend the hearing for variance. We live in a small town that has seasonal homes.This couple were seasonal. At the council meeting I argued that having old cars as a hobby required more storage space. Council countered that it would be possible for me o carry out commercial repairs. I commented tat that wold be up to the by law officers to keep on top of. A council member also happened to bea car dealer.

Then I argued that when the town asks "come on fellows bring out your old cars for a parade" I asked "were do you think these old cars come from if we can't store them in order to maintain and preserve them.

It worked for me!!

Henry

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It would depend on the area in VA Beach there are so many subdivisions and manny have thier own rules,that would be the first place to look?????? One thought would be to write a pattition and get all the folks in the area to agree to your plan with name and address.

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I've been in the building trade for a number of years and have battled the building department numerous times. My opinion is, your chances of winning your appeal are slim. Probably wouldn't hurt to try.

Maybe you could reduce the footprint of your building and increase the height to allow for a car lift. Park one car on the lift and one under.

My brother, (a building inspector) recently told me a story about a fellow who built a detached garage too close to the house. Evidently a detached garage must be at least four or five feet from the house. Anyway, the home owner after loosing his appeal, decided to make the new garage attached. He tied a rope from the house to the garage. The building inspectors could do nothing as there was no definition on how an attached garage must be attached to the house. He outsmarted the government, I hope you do too. Good luck

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I am a Councilman in small town government, have been for 20 years. We have found that the person who wants the rules bent for them is usually the one who screams the loudest when someone else wants the rules bent for their pet project. If they allow a variance for your garage it will be mighty difficult for them NOT to grant a variance for the next fellow, who just might want to do something clearly detrimental to the neighborhood. Allow a variance for a Christian Book Store and you can't then deny the same variance for a strip joint. It is always your neighbors who turn you in. Municipalities can (we don't) subscribe to a service that will photo your town monthly from a satellite and notify you if there is evidence of any building or earth moving activity since the last photo was taken. Any advice you receive here will be meaningless since your particular state and local laws prevail.

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I am going to give you some advice based dealing with people during my 30 years of law enforcement experience and having dealt with a similar problem personally. The best thing you can do is call the appropriate zoning official in your town and set up an appointment with them to meet with you to discuss what you want to do with your property. It would be best if he or she will meet you at your property to discuss it. The two of you can then do a walk through and discuss what you want to accomplish. When dealing with an individual face to face, and looking at the piece of property, her or she will be able to visualize what you want to accomplish and will probably be able to give you advice about the best way to accomplish what you want to do.

In my case, years ago, the local zoning official was able to look at my property and see why I needed to do what I needed to do. With his advice, I was able to accomplish what I wanted to do under the exceptions that were allowed in the appropriate law in my location.

There are usually allowable ways to accomplish what you want to do as long as it is reasonable. It may just take someone familiar with the codes and ordinaces looking at your property to figure out the best way to do what you want to do. It might just take a minor change to your plans to make it work legally.

If a meeting on-site does not produce a legal compromise, you can then always hire an attorney to fight for the variance that you seek.

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I agree with Matthew with his reasoning. However, as suggested before, I would recommend to first talk with your neighbors. This can make all the difference in the world. This way, there shouldn't be anyone fighting against you....except the zoning people. If you get their support, then this might bode well with the zoning dept.

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While your situation is regrettable, why are you venting on the original poster. He asked for a little help, not a sob story. You are not alone in your difficulties. I, also, haven't had a paycheck in 2 1/2 years, but I wouldn't begrudge anyone their efforts to improve their situation, nor am I jealous of his financial abilities to do so. I hope he is able to resolve this issue and build his shop

No offence, but they are right.

Not having a 3 car Garage is NOT a Hardship. Even those of us that dont have any Garage, it isnt a hardship.

It is a luxury. Having 3 cars to work on besides a daily driver, is a luxury.

If you can even THINK about it, that it is a luxury too.

Ask a guy that is homeless what a hardship is. No offence, but those that are used to luxury expect others to think that the the loss of luxury is a hardship - it isnt.

Not being able to eat is a hardship, not being able to pay your electric bill is a hardship. In today's economy some of us are lucky to even have a car.

I was laid off in 2005, spent 3 years unemployed, no healthcare, my house is foreclosed upon and had to give up my car because I could not afford the insurance. It took me 2 weeks just to put away the money to join this club. .. Now I work my butt off for half of what I made in 2005, and please spare me the jokes, cause it isnt funny, because if you can joke about it, that is a luxury too. Donate the money to charity, if you want to part with it, please.

Again, please do not take offence, but I just had to throw in some perspective here.

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Matthew is right.

In the 80's and 90s, I built condominium buildings in L.A. On one project, due to various municipal codes regarding density, if I was building apartments, the city would allow 48 units. But as I was building condominiums, density rules would only allow 46 units. Losing two units to sell due to this ridiculous density law would not have made the project as lucrative as it should be.

To make a long story short, before I asked for my variance in front of an 11 member building committee, I had two meetings with my councilman to explain the situation. A few weeks late the 11 member panel granted my variance based on the councilman's recommendation (that I also made a significant contribution to a fund raiser hosted by the councilman had no bearing on the councilman or the panel to see things my way).

I am going to give you some advice based dealing with people during my 30 years of law enforcement experience and having dealt with a similar problem personally. The best thing you can do is call the appropriate zoning official in your town and set up an appointment with them to meet with you to discuss what you want to do with your property. It would be best if he or she will meet you at your property to discuss it. The two of you can then do a walk through and discuss what you want to accomplish. When dealing with an individual face to face, and looking at the piece of property, her or she will be able to visualize what you want to accomplish and will probably be able to give you advice about the best way to accomplish what you want to do.

In my case, years ago, the local zoning official was able to look at my property and see why I needed to do what I needed to do. With his advice, I was able to accomplish what I wanted to do under the exceptions that were allowed in the appropriate law in my location.

There are usually allowable ways to accomplish what you want to do as long as it is reasonable. It may just take someone familiar with the codes and ordinaces looking at your property to figure out the best way to do what you want to do. It might just take a minor change to your plans to make it work legally.

If a meeting on-site does not produce a legal compromise, you can then always hire an attorney to fight for the variance that you seek.

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:)Jacques, welcome to the real world. If you think you own your property you are sadly mistaken.,you just rent it. Stop paying your taxes and see how long befor you are evicted. We have a large bicycle race here every year,partisapents come from all over the state to compeat. The code enforcement checks the aeria every year befor the race looking for anything that MIGHT look detramential to visitors. One house on the cornor has been sighted several times for everything from pealing paint to a small brooken window in his garage door. If it where me I would build a out-house compleat with half moon in the door,put it on wheels and park it smack in the middle of my front yard the night befor the race.:eek:.The poster above is right, enlist the aid of one of your concell members to look at your property and plans ( a gt. of good scotch might help) and you might find a way to build with only a minor change. Good luck.

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As was previously stated, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Several years ago, one of my friends and his family moved into a pricey development. After they'd been there about a year, his kids wanted a dalmatian, so he checked with the zoning board about putting up a fence (the back of his property bordered a very busy 4-lane street).

"Sorry, no fences in this area" was the reply. Joe was ticked off that he couldn't get the dog he wanted, so he started reading the development's rules. There were dozens of things that weren't allowed - but - he could have a clothes-line!

He searched until he found one of the old six-sided ones that revolve on a central pole and put it dead-center in his front yard. He then had his wife wash some worn out old work clothes and some 'unmentionables' and hang them on the line. He had his fence variance in writing in less than two weeks!

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I had a neighbor that back in the '70's (when our area was within the "planning boundary" of the city, but still county) wanted to put up a studio and photography museum behind his house. He designed a beautiful 1800's style wood building and even built a very professional large scale model of it to show the planners. He was rejected. His wheels got to turning and he found a blank spot in the code where, at that time, steel buildings were not regulated....

He erected a big pre-fab ORANGE two story building visible from the street and to this day it stands as a semi-hideous monument to the city's stupidity.

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Guest my3buicks

That reminds me of the story where a couple bought a large motor home to travel in for their retirement. All the neighbors got up in arms because it sat beside the house when they were home and there was some kind of ordinance in place against parking that type of vehicle. So the couple got approval for a building to house the motor home in. To the horror of their neighbors he painted the building bright pink and nothing could be done, in the end his retaliation was far worse than the original issue.

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maybe your reduced sq. footage would allow a patio or deck adjacent to it .. then have doors that open on to them for your cars access..

I personally had events dealing with fines and possible jail because of refusal to move a boat/trailer on lawn near my side yard...after numerous tickets and threats of removal to impound ...

I refused to back down I would not move the boat and trailer repeating to every officer that came to fine me... they demanded I move it I said no ,no no I wil not .. When the ordiance officer called the police and they showed up and wanted to know why I would not move the boat ... with one ordiance officer 3 sqaud cars 3 police officers standing in front of me .. I relented and said I refused to move the neighbors boat/trailer onto my property they had never asked me who owned it just to move it the property line between the lots was angled even though i mowed around the boat it was 6 feet off my property

this was the end of the visits

I asked for copies of the reports from all officers involved covering 7 months of almost weekly harrassment ,officer visits day and night on weekends .... they were not sent

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To the horror of their neighbors he painted the building bright pink and nothing could be done, in the end his retaliation was far worse than the original issue.

And justifiably deserved. Same case with the big orange building and the clothesline.

Paperdog, did the authorities then begin to bug your neighbor about the boat? Would be interesting to know how much municipal time and money was spent on that 7-month scenario.

Dealing with anal-retentives who are obsessed with minutiae makes me understand why people will go off and buy a thousand acre ranch in Montana, just to get away from that mess.

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It started with having some 50's cars parked along my double garage in the winter and not tagged ....they complained of them being visible .. then when I moved them in the spring behind the garage to an area that was fenced in put collector $ plates on them..they wanted to see "the way I stored them " which was" not allowed "no vehicles parked on the lawn" so I put patio paver under each of the wheels which was "legal"but torqed them off ...they complained that my metal lawn furniture sets could not be stacked against the back of the garage for the winter'"looks like a pile of junk" ,the tire /wheel rack back there also was not legal"car parts could not be stored outside"I had a set of roller tires with wheels in every bolt pattern ready for when I found another car about 6 sets with another 5 sets of nice painted take off wheels all coverd by a new blue tarp so nothing was visible as to what was under it.

they even complained that me being a single guy had no reason to have 4 barbeque grills " as a single guy how would you use that many at one time?"

so I set up 3 different spots in the yard for sitting with a barbie by each one left one by the back door of the house moved the tire rack to my parents acerage 17 miles away

then on the next visit they started on the boat ...never ever asking me if it was mine .. just to move it onto paved surface or into my garage .. when I said I could not do that or would not do that .. they started the tickets and 30 day compliance ,threats and such...

during all this my brother came over with out telling me and borrowed my swapmeet trailer for one week and left the contents bicycles and kids peddle cars on the drive way ... "thats not allowed as it attracts vermin and without a family/kids there is no reason for me to even own them!"

you mean to tell me that when 4 bikes and 2 peddle cars are set together that attracts vermin? like at the local grade school every day or the family with kids that leaves stuff all over the yard .. that what I have here for 4 days is a bad thing?andI can't even"own "them!

On beautiful spring day a buddy stopped with his hot rod and parked on the front lawn he wanted to show me his new stainless exhaust while we were laying next to the car to look at it the officer stopped I opened the door to turn off the car..she was going to give me a ticket for working on vehicles outside of a garage and parking on the lawn ... my freind tried to explain but I stopped him and said let her do her job ... she went to her car to do the citations when he drove accross the lawn and around her and left .. she said where's your car going I said it was not mine and I do not work on cars in the lawn .. the numbered citations had to be voided she was pissed..

In the end the boat owning neighber was notified soon after and being a widow with a 7 year old son she was shook about my hassle and now hers, I gave her some pavers and put it on them for her but in the same spot I still mowed around it for her..

they stopped coming over after that ..

When I asked how much of my front yard could be paved to park on the city permit dept. had never "been asked that before?" and would get back to me .. they stated that the right of way on the road in front of my house was 90 feet from the center of the road ..taking up one 3rd of my front lawn and not much else could change

I measured and the quit mowing the edge along the street,let it go back to prairie grasses.. like the center islands in our community the rabbits loved it they complained of me not keeping up my lawn ,, I told them it was not mine if planting, gardening, or fences were not allowed.. even asked for a acerage reduction at tax time but mostly its the city or GOD to take care of. or they could haul in gravel and keep that area under weed control easy..

AND ON AND ON

I now live on 13 acres and have a lake place on 6...I still keep stuff as neat as I can but like to see what I haveparked on the grass sometimes .. we have three large out buildings and have a total of 23 cars and yes some stuff sits out

we just buit a 40x40 garage at the lake to put boats and pontoons in....and 2 summer cars

I have seen that communty officer since .. and said "remember me ""'ANYBODY TELL YOU WHAT A GOOD JOB YOUR DOING LATELY? MAYBE SOMEDAY BEFORE YOU DIE SOME ONE MIGHT..BUT MOST LIKELY NOT!..

so beware that once they get access they start adding to the list .....never let them in the yard, garage , house .. without a written reason from the city..

and make them bring you any ordinace violations to you in writing..nothing they see as wrong is wrong until they can prove it in writing

I was working part time at a attorneys office during all this..

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I, too, have been there. Although I sold the house recently, it was, from day one, my intention to tear down the existing 3-car garage and build a larger 4-6 car garage. Unfortunately, the lady next door had already fought one of my other neighbors who built an absolutely spectacular garage that matches his house perfect--rumor has it that he spent more than $250,000 on the garage alone.

Anyway, after speaking to the neighbor with the garage, my local zoning official when he was out doing a septic inspection, and a few construction companies, we decided that the smart thing to do was to build DOWN. A full basement with concrete walls and a structural concrete ceiling (which also gave me a solid concrete floor in the parking area). That way I could have more square footage for the workshop space I wanted, while dedicating all the grade-level space to storing cars, without building a monstrous structure that would dominate my home. Doing it this way both doubled the amount of workshop/storage space I would have had, and allowed me to fit 6 cars in a garage with only 4 overhead doors (I was building it in an L shape, so two cars could go in the corner).

I had the approvals and everyone was happy (except the lady next door, who undoubtedly would have fought me every step of the way once construction started, but with permits there would be nothing she could do).

Anyway, it never got built, but getting creative and working WITHIN the system is your best bet. Go where the rules aren't, and treat the zoning board, if not as allies, at least not as enemies. Make them angry and you won't be able to plant a rose bush without them snooping around and picking nits all over the place. 'Tis far better to have them as friendlies under all circumstances.

Hope this helps and isn't too long-winded.

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