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Screw the rules!

A neighbor of mine got a Stop Work order on their garage. It’s got a small occupiable space above, so it’s taller than the house. Our zoning area doesn’t allow an accessory building to be taller than the main dwelling. I walked by the house this weekend and look what has suddenly appeared…

So now *technically* the garage roof isn’t higher than the house roof. I LOVE this. 

Anyone have other examples of saying $&?! the rules?

 
Feb 12, 24 6:34 am
bowling_ball

Surely we've all heard of spite houses


Spite Houses on wiki

Feb 12, 24 9:58 am  · 
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bowling_ball

Also I love the topic!

Feb 12, 24 9:58 am  · 
3  · 

Ooh I really want to see floor plans of the Richardson Spite House, five feet wide and four stories tall!

Feb 12, 24 10:43 am  · 
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OMG found them!

Feb 12, 24 10:45 am  · 
4  · 
ill_will

Not to be confused with spite-stores from curb your enthusiasm.

Feb 13, 24 11:33 am  · 
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Wood Guy

Haha, that'll show 'em! Around here, most zoning ordinances say that things like chimneys and cupolas don't count toward the building height, mainly so they don't count against the maximum allowable building height but it would also be applied in a case like this.

I've been involved with a few projects, especially on Nantucket, where demolition and reconstruction was not allowed but renovating existing buildings was allowed. So we would leave one or two walls standing, demolish the rest of the building, excavate and pour new foundations, and frame new buildings, leaving the existing walls in place. Then once it was closed in we would reframe the original walls from the interior, then replace the siding and patch sheathing as necessary. Maybe a few of the original boards made it through to the finished project, and labor costs were tens of thousands of dollars higher than necessary, but it apparently fooled the people who needed to be fooled.

Feb 12, 24 10:01 am  · 
5  · 

I've seen that, and maybe done it, too, Wood Guy. There was an existing garage that didn't meet setback restrictions but by leaving the studs of the two back corner existing walls the new garage was able to be built on the existing foundation, or at least what was left of it after we beefed it up to support the new two-story structure.

Feb 12, 24 10:41 am  · 
1  · 
bowling_ball

My old boss got away with this for years by keeping the chimneys only. Eventually the city caught on to him and there's some value calculation that triggers permit requirements or some such (I no longer do SFH).

Feb 12, 24 11:07 am  · 
2  · 
deltar

I get this question a lot. In my jurisdiction you have to leave 20% (by valuation) of the existing structure in order to rebuild a non-conforming structure. With the cost of concrete in my area leaving the slabs and foundation walls is usually 20% of the value. So far I've only had one person take me up on that, most opt to just build it conforming.

Feb 12, 24 12:44 pm  · 
2  · 
atelier nobody

Around here, most jurisdictions require keeping 50%, by value, of the existing structure.

Feb 12, 24 3:51 pm  · 
4  · 
gwharton

I did a house a bunch of years ago that utilized this renovation vs new construction loophole. We specifically retained one wall of a demolished home to qualify .... and then during construction a work crew tore that wall down anyway without prior authorization. So the contractor went out there and rebuilt it before the inspectors noticed. Only they had already dumped the original demo'd materials, so he rebuilt it out of new stuff lol.

Feb 12, 24 3:58 pm  · 
5  · 

The project I'm working crazy hours on right now is a Fire / EMS station in a mountain town.  The mountain town has crazy, ambiguous rules for new buildings that the town council will interpret in whatever way suites their mood.  In the last couple of weeks of DD the town council made a bunch of  changes to the zoning requirements such as

  • requiring geothermal
  • requiring PVs
  • requiring the adoption of new energy code
  • requiring all EMS vehicles be electric
  • banning the use of natural gas

The project owner (the fire department) got around all of this by telling the town to pound sand.  They then moved the project out of the town (literally the next plot of land over, about 300').  The town said they wouldn't extend sewer if the project moved.  The owner told them to pound more sand and used an on site septic system.  

Feb 12, 24 10:41 am  · 
3  · 
bowling_ball

Isn't the Town Council also the client? It seems weird that there's a recognized need for an ems station, but it can also be located outside of the client's jurisdiction? How does that work? America still seems like the wild west from here.

Feb 12, 24 11:22 am  · 
2  · 
JonathanLivingston

Electric only EMS vehicles seems like a big liability. Usually Fire overrules zoning in my experience. Life safety being a bigger concern.

Feb 12, 24 11:29 am  · 
2  · 
JLC-1

welcome to the ski resort guilt governing - too much money from tourism and second (and beyond) homeowners, too many intelligent and concerned environmentalist citizens, extreme guilt over waste of resources and the rules become as extreme as the guilt.

Feb 12, 24 1:34 pm  · 
4  · 

BB - the town council isn't the client though. The fire department got their own funding for the project an the town is contributing NOTHING. You'd think the town council would view this as a 'town' project and be willing to work with the fire department but no.


Jonathan - that's what the fire department thought as well.  The town council wasn't willing to compromise and brought out legal an political repercussions if fire didn't cooperate.  

JCL-1 - this town also informed us that their water system couldn't handle the sprinkler system for the project due to age and condition.  Yet the town council approved several million dollars (due to an excess of sales tax money) to buy the entire police department Tesla's.  Did I mention that the police still has their gas vehicles on only use the EV's 'in town'.  Yeah.  

Feb 12, 24 6:50 pm  · 
3  · 
bowling_ball

Uhhhh.... Doesn't the Town fund the firefighters? If not, where do they get their funding?

Feb 12, 24 10:03 pm  · 
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archanonymous

Don't you guys know, in 'murica you gotta pay the firefighters yourself to put out the fire... it's the healthcare model.

Feb 13, 24 5:49 am  · 
1  · 

One more interesting thing about the town council on this project. One member, who shale remain nameless, likes to perpetuate the idea that he / she is an experienced environmental scientist who's and expert in sustainability with a PHD. The thing is he / she has a PHD in literature. The majority of their 'expert research' is just opinions with no actual scientific data to support their claims.

Feb 13, 24 9:31 am  · 
1  · 
JLC-1

bb, the county funds the fire depts. around here, property taxes mostly.

chad, you're lucky there's not a landscape architect in the council.

Feb 13, 24 11:36 am  · 
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I wouldn't mind it if anyone with design or construction experience was on the town council.

Feb 13, 24 12:34 pm  · 
1  · 
JonathanLivingston

What do you mean no architectural experience? They all subscribe to the digest for their coffee table. They watch HGTV, and they could have been architects if they could draw math.

Feb 13, 24 12:53 pm  · 
1  · 
JLC-1

i know, that's why I said landscape architect....

Feb 13, 24 2:04 pm  · 
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atelier nobody

A friend once had one where the setbacks only left a tiny buildable area, but there was very vague language on what projections were allowed, so he designed a half basement within the setbacks with the first floor cantilevered out in all 4 directions. He did end up in court over it, but the judge ruled in his favor in the end.

Feb 12, 24 3:41 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

I actually keep my eyes open for lots that are cheap because everyone else thinks they're "unbuildable" but I see possibilities. If I ever do build my own house, it's likely to be on one of these lots.

Feb 12, 24 4:08 pm  · 
3  · 
JLC-1

look at auctions, we had a "client" years ago who bought a title at auction for an unbuildable lot that was a remnant of a condo subdivision, more than 30 years later. He fought tooth and nails and ended up selling the rights to the hoa for a hefty sum.

Feb 12, 24 4:33 pm  · 
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axonapoplectic

I don’t think I’ve worked on a single project where we haven’t had to go through zoning appeals. Some places are much more egregious than others - especially the ones where everything in the neighborhood is non-conforming.

Feb 13, 24 10:38 am  · 
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