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Thread: Requiring Z.A. to sign off on building permits

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Requiring Z.A. to sign off on building permits

    Quick question for anyone out there, does your department require the Zoning Administrator to sign off on a building permit before the contractor pours the footings? We have some issues here where regardless of the sketch plan, folks tend to disregard setbacks (not too often, but occasionally). Our building inspectors don't have the time to measure setbacks and keep track of everything (we have 2 for an entire county...). One of our inspectors suggested that if I am required to sign off on a permit as well as the inspector for the pouring of the footing to commence, then this might fix our issues. It really wouldn't be a burden on me in any way, as we have maybe 1-2 footings a week , generally more like 2 weeks.

    So does anyone have any input about this idea? Good, bad? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Yes. I find it odd you don't require the ZA to be the first contact. Here the ZA is the gatekeeper for all projects except interior remodels. How do you know if the size, setbacks, height, use, landscaping, etc is adequate if the ZA doesn't approve it. If the ZA doesn't approve it nothing else matters - the project is dead.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    We are one of 8 municipalities in our County. The county does building inspections. A zoning compliance permit is required for the most part to get a building permit. With 8 municipalities it gets difficult to determine who wants what so there is a matrix that spells out when a zoning permit is required. We are fortunate that our county inspectors measure setbacks if we indicate them on the permit. I think in you case it just might be that you put in place that a setback inspection is the first required inspection. It should be simple enough.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Yes. I find it odd you don't require the ZA to be the first contact. Here the ZA is the gatekeeper for all projects except interior remodels. How do you know if the size, setbacks, height, use, landscaping, etc is adequate if the ZA doesn't approve it. If the ZA doesn't approve it nothing else matters - the project is dead.
    Well really I am the first contact, but all I have to go on is the plan that goes a long with the project when filling out the zoning permit. What is drawn on paper and what actually occurs in the field are completely different in some situations.

    Basically what I am talking about is a site visit prior to the first building inspection (footings) to measure out and make sure the setbacks are followed. Id probably include this with accessory buildings as well that do not require a building inspection. I would NOT do this for any of our municipalities, because that would be their business to attend to.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AG74683 View post
    What is drawn on paper and what actually occurs in the field are completely different in some situations.

    Basically what I am talking about is a site visit prior to the first building inspection (footings) to measure out and make sure the setbacks are followed.
    I understand. We don't go and check the setbacks but state on the application and in our ordinance if the information on the permit application is wrong we can (and have) made people remove their buildings. We often say this in meetings, that if the info is wrong, we will demand compliance. In my time this has happened 5 times and only once did the property owner fight us in court. We ended up "winning" and they were forced to compensate us for our attorney/staff time.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    I understand. We don't go and check the setbacks but state on the application and in our ordinance if the information on the permit application is wrong we can (and have) made people remove their buildings. We often say this in meetings, that if the info is wrong, we will demand compliance. In my time this has happened 5 times and only once did the property owner fight us in court. We ended up "winning" and they were forced to compensate us for our attorney/staff time.
    My issue here is that I really don't have any legal support. Our attorney is...not ideal. My thinking is that if I catch these violations before they can occur, then I can stop them. If I catch it afterwards, there is not much that can be done to fix it other than a letter which will largely be ignored since everyone knows we don't really have the teeth to make things happen.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I actually thought that all municipalities already did this. In the last community I planned for, the Director of Planning signed off on all building permits. This was a community of 25,000 - such an approach may not be workable for a community with a significantly higher workflow. The permit signoff packet contained the permit application, construction docs, elevations, etc and was reviewed by building, public works (if applicable), and then finally planning before permit issue.

  8. #8
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    In my shop, applications are accepted by the building division and a copy is routed to planning for zoning plan check (setbacks, heights, impervious surface, etc.), which is performed by staff planners. Building inspectors are responsible to insure the construction conforms to the approved plans.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    In my shop, applications are accepted by the building division and a copy is routed to planning for zoning plan check (setbacks, heights, impervious surface, etc.), which is performed by staff planners. Building inspectors are responsible to insure the construction conforms to the approved plans.
    This is what I was used to while working in a mid-sized suburban municipality, although it does come with disadvantages as well (first example that comes to mind is how one enforces a 35% front yard/driveway requirement in the field, same goes for impervious cover in general, etc.). There were many instances where I drove through newer approved subdivisions and thought to myself, "There is no way this meets all of our requirements."

    I suppose you can always go with the original suggestion and review it yourself. If you can fit it in the schedule, why not? Or, make a case that this is part of the inspector's duties. The latter approach may require a little more work up front and possibly some staff training, but it seems to be the more efficient route. I would probably go with whichever option I think is going to cause less of a headache (many of my decisions seem to follow this logic).
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  10. #10
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    We also advise contractors that if you're on a small lot and setbacks are tight, get your surveyor to confirm the location of the forms meet minimum required setbacks before concrete starts getting poured.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    It sounds like your building inspectors need to handle it since they are at the site. I know that is something our building inspectors do and will red tag it if the setbacks are off. Better to catch it before the building goes vertical. If its only 1 or 2 a week I have trouble believing that they can't spend an extra 1 to 2 cases a week. Phoenix is allows same day at risk permits where no planner reviews the plans and the inspectors ensure that all of the zoning requirements are met in the field.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

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