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Old 01-11-2007, 07:00 AM   #1
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Uh Oh setback problem!


So, I took the lead on the site prep (survey, moving utils, removing trees, new drive way, etc.) for an addition on my 40 year old house. I recently hired a general contractor for the addition.

I fully checked him out and everything seemed fine. I gave him a copy of the survey over a month ago. He recently put in the permit application, and I get a call from him saying that the zoning people have my application on hold. Apparently, one corner of my house encroaches onto the front setback by about a foot. They won't let the application for the addition to go thru (even though there are no setback problems with the addition), until I apply for and obtain a variance for my original structure, which has been in the same established neighborhood for over 40 years!

Now, I am not happy. First at the GC because I believe he should have recognized a potential problem from the plat diagram I gave him and gave me a heads up (at least I could have looked into this a while ago). Now he has my money and worst of all he is asking me to take care of the variance issue!

I have to ask, and please be honest, am I making too much of a big deal about this thing? Should he have known about this pitfall ahead of time and let me know about it? Should he be taking care of the variance issue or should I? Thanks.

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Old 01-11-2007, 10:29 AM   #2
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Uh Oh setback problem!


Who's to say Setbacks haven't changed since the house was bilt..... Contact Code enforcement and see. I'd still say it's Grandfathered in.......

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Old 01-11-2007, 10:48 AM   #3
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Uh Oh setback problem!


How would your GC know that you didn't already have a variance? I don't see this as being his problem. It's a bummer, for sure, but go talk to the people involved with a view to 'working it out' rather than 'they're trying to screw me around', and it may be easier than you think. Worst case might be that you pay for the variance (think 'tax'), I can't imagine your neighbours will complain after 40 yrs. Like mdlbldrmatt135 says, you might be grandfathered in.
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Old 01-11-2007, 12:45 PM   #4
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Uh Oh setback problem!


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Who's to say Setbacks haven't changed since the house was bilt..... Contact Code enforcement and see. I'd still say it's Grandfathered in.......
They seem to be the original setbacks so I don't think there is anything to grandfather in.
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Old 01-11-2007, 01:01 PM   #5
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Uh Oh setback problem!


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How would your GC know that you didn't already have a variance?
Because he had a fresh plat diagram showing the existing (and original) setbacks, and the encroachment. There is nothing to grandfather in.
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Old 01-11-2007, 01:16 PM   #6
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Uh Oh setback problem!


I think the key is how much did you pay the GC, if it is just hundred bucks for him to submit the permit... or somthing like that... you should just eat it... but if you are talking about a lot of money. Then you can ask for most of the money refund and you want to cancel the deal because of this problem... If he said he won't refund you... then he has a problem and you can definitely bring him to court....
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Old 01-11-2007, 10:30 PM   #7
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Uh Oh setback problem!


Our lots were developed over 50 years ago in a city munincipality. So the fencing and hardscapes are very permanent. Fast forward to today...A survey shows my neighbor has been using a 3' x 130' section of my lot. If I had this, I could add a drive and shop to the back of the lot. This obviously create a domino effect in the entire neighborhood.

I pushed the issue with both the city and an attorney. I was basically told that it would be near impossible to legally claim the property back. There are case-loads of similiar situations that people have spent thousands to fight, only to lose. I would see an attorney and have them set the munincipality straight, your home free and they are being jerks.
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Old 01-15-2007, 12:02 PM   #8
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Uh Oh setback problem!


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Our lots were developed over 50 years ago in a city munincipality. So the fencing and hardscapes are very permanent. Fast forward to today...A survey shows my neighbor has been using a 3' x 130' section of my lot. If I had this, I could add a drive and shop to the back of the lot. This obviously create a domino effect in the entire neighborhood.

I pushed the issue with both the city and an attorney. I was basically told that it would be near impossible to legally claim the property back. There are case-loads of similiar situations that people have spent thousands to fight, only to lose. I would see an attorney and have them set the munincipality straight, your home free and they are being jerks.

You need the just do it attitude.

We have the same thing at my house. The lot I live on was originally much larger and was divided up so two more houses could be built. They split the property up at odd angles with points jutting out, etc in order to get enough land in each lot to build. Now my neighbors property cuts across my driveway at an angle, they own the property up to about 2ft of one side of my house, they own a staircase we use to access our garage, and my water supply runs right under their front yard. On the other side we own part of their garden, part of their front yard, and part of their driveway.
I think if anyone decided to go to court over it the judge would tell us the lines are whatever they look like right now and we can all get out of his court now. Now if my neighbor one day put up a fence across our driveway on the line, paved the area and poured a footing for a new garage we would probably be SOL.
What I'm saying is just go pour a drive there, if you have to remove a fence have a new one put in where the line should be or move the old one if it's feasable. If they come out and complain show them the survey. Most likely they'll let it go at that. If they go to court after the drive and fence are up the judge is a heck of a lot more likely to side with you so long as you didn't do anything that will be damaging to the neighbors property.

Last edited by Tmb9862; 01-15-2007 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:32 AM   #9
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Uh Oh setback problem!


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You need the just do it attitude.

We have the same thing at my house. The lot I live on was originally much larger and was divided up so two more houses could be built. They split the property up at odd angles with points jutting out, etc in order to get enough land in each lot to build. Now my neighbors property cuts across my driveway at an angle, they own the property up to about 2ft of one side of my house, they own a staircase we use to access our garage, and my water supply runs right under their front yard. On the other side we own part of their garden, part of their front yard, and part of their driveway.
I think if anyone decided to go to court over it the judge would tell us the lines are whatever they look like right now and we can all get out of his court now. Now if my neighbor one day put up a fence across our driveway on the line, paved the area and poured a footing for a new garage we would probably be SOL.
What I'm saying is just go pour a drive there, if you have to remove a fence have a new one put in where the line should be or move the old one if it's feasable. If they come out and complain show them the survey. Most likely they'll let it go at that. If they go to court after the drive and fence are up the judge is a heck of a lot more likely to side with you so long as you didn't do anything that will be damaging to the neighbors property.
This has NOTHING to do with another neighbors property line. This is the locality's SETBACK for this neighborhood. NO PERMIT can be issued until the setback issue is resolved. I (My Contractor) cannot build a garage without a building permit. Understand?
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:11 AM   #10
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Uh Oh setback problem!


I do and you cant blame, fault or criticize your GC. You can get out and vote. Vote for whoever is in favor of less intrusion of government in our lives. If you voted for big government people then they are doing just want you want, telling you what you can and cant do with YOUR property.

So, you need to go through the governments process, fees and headaches. You will see where you tax dollars are going.
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Old 02-08-2007, 06:16 PM   #11
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Uh Oh setback problem!


I agree with Brik,

First thing we tell home owners when they contact us is that THEY need to contact their town and find out if their 'project' will be approved.
There are always going to be issues to examine and check on (i.e.-setbacks, septic size, town sewer hookup, town codes, laws, drainage, etc...etc...)

This is something that we make it clear that the Home Owner needs to check into PRIOR to even consulting with us about their home improvement ideas and desires....
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:43 PM   #12
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Uh Oh setback problem!


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I agree with Brik,

First thing we tell home owners when they contact us is that THEY need to contact their town and find out if their 'project' will be approved.
There are always going to be issues to examine and check on (i.e.-setbacks, septic size, town sewer hookup, town codes, laws, drainage, etc...etc...)

This is something that we make it clear that the Home Owner needs to check into PRIOR to even consulting with us about their home improvement ideas and desires....
Then you sound like a competent contractor. I was given no such advice.
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Old 02-09-2007, 06:41 AM   #13
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Then you sound like a competent contractor. I was given no such advice.
Ahhh...., I see, I get your point....Yes, he should have....at the very least.... advised you to look into your project and town approval...and he didn't even do that....

In Building, Construction, & Remodeling.....FORE-THOUGHT and PLANNING are primary and necessary factors. This is really the case in EVERY aspect of the General Contracting job.

A competent and experienced GC should have these ingrained in every phase of their thinking process....
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:53 AM   #14
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Ahhh...., I see, I get your point....Yes, he should have....at the very least.... advised you to look into your project and town approval...and he didn't even do that....

In Building, Construction, & Remodeling.....FORE-THOUGHT and PLANNING are primary and necessary factors. This is really the case in EVERY aspect of the General Contracting job.

A competent and experienced GC should have these ingrained in every phase of their thinking process....

Yes, I wasn't expecting him to do this kind of leg work but to impart his knowledge of the process and ask me to check. I am not just paying for him to dig some footers or frame-up some walls I am expecting him to give me the accurate lay of the land as far as the entire process (including my responsibilities) not just make the sale.
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Old 02-09-2007, 06:48 PM   #15
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Yes, I wasn't expecting him to do this kind of leg work but to impart his knowledge of the process and ask me to check. I am not just paying for him to dig some footers or frame-up some walls I am expecting him to give me the accurate lay of the land as far as the entire process (including my responsibilities) not just make the sale.
I understand your point now....makes sense to me...

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