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Poll results: How *picky* are you when it comes the enforcing zoning?

Voters
23. You may not vote on this poll
  • Yah, your not hurting anyone, so just go ahead with your project....

    1 4.35%
  • If it's under 1' (or 10%) than I/we evaluate and possibly approve administratively.

    6 26.09%
  • Anything over 1' (10%) definately has to go ZBA and/or PC.

    4 17.39%
  • By the book, to the letter baby!

    12 52.17%
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Thread: How *picky* are you? (AIB parking review)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    How *picky* are you? (AIB parking review)

    So, I'm trying to do a poll (not sure if it will work). How picky are you when it comes to zoning requirements? Hypothetically, what if someone wants to add on an attached garage and they would be going 6 inches into the side yard setback (10 feet required) - would you require a variance, or approve it administratively based on the surroundings. What if it would only be 3 inches, or what about 1 foot?

    What if a proposed development (say, Menards) is short parking by say 10 spaces, and if you adjust the usable floor area %, it works out. But using the standard, it is still short. Do you let them go with 10 less spaces in the interest of less parking?

    Say zoning requires any comm/industial building additions to go to PC if over 10% of the existing size. Their proposed addition is 11%, located in the rear yard, will not encroach into setbacks, parking, etc. Would you take that 1% addition to the PC?

    Are we strictly by the book type of people, or do we have some flexibility? By the way, I know the *correct* answer, I'm just curious if we all follow it

  2. #2
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    For dimensions, we round to the nearest foot and for parking we only use the “usable” floor area. You could exclude storage, closets, bathrooms, and a few other things.

    *Note, I wonder if you could exclude the area taking up be shelving? It is only used as storage...
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    For dimensions, we round to the nearest foot and for parking we only use the “usable” floor area. You could exclude storage, closets, bathrooms, and a few other things.

    *Note, I wonder if you could exclude the area taking up be shelving? It is only used as storage...
    When we did site plan review for Meijer, they figured all those calculations for us - what really was usable. Of course we double checked them. For their situation, I think 65% of the store was considered usable. It really mattered as far as the amount of parking required. Already their lot is huge, and even if really busy a lot of spaces are empty.

  4. #4

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    I have seen ordinances that explicitly allow an administrative exception of 5 or 10% for specification standards like parking or setbacks. I think it is a good idea to add some practical flexibility to a system and to help staff make defensible practical adjustments.

  5. #5
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    While I'd love the flexibility....I'd be out of a job if I let anything go zoning wise.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  6. #6
    In my previous job, we had a provision that allwed for architectural projections into required yards. I used that for things that it probably wasn't meant to be used for but I really don't see how allowing an extra 6 inches is going to hurt anything or even be noticed. Now with commercial properties I was less likely to allow for any deviations from the code.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I try to be flexable if the proposal makes sense and passes the straight face test. And I always ask the question: OK, if I do this who's gonna find out and who's gonna care?
    Annoyingly insensitive

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Man, if I let up on someone and the Council found out...

    Boss: "Step into my Office!"

    Me: "Why"

    Boss: "'Cause your f***in fired!"

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ha ha ha.....

    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    Man, if I let up on someone and the Council found out...

    Boss: "Step into my Office!"

    Me: "Why"

    Boss: "'Cause your f***in fired!"
    I used to work for a guy that would throw cases on my desk and say "WHAT THE F#$% is this S$#% PILE!!!???" and that was just a recommended approval for a requested 1 foot setback variance....YIKES......
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  10. #10
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    Our code has quite a bit of flex for setbacks (can do "front average", for example) and parking spaces (can submit a "study" of similar uses), but absolutely none for zoning. I just denied an after-the-fact permit for a lumber company that built 5' into the next (residential) lot - there isn't any gray area here on that stuff. (Although I probably wouldn't be fired for doing it, but I sure would see a dramatic difference in the stuff assigned to me in the future!) Plus, there's that AICP ethics thing... o

  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Working in smaller towns, you have to be a little flexible. Most places I have worked the BOA just grants the smaller stuff. In my last job I was working on allowing some administrative flexablity. I was thinking about using a percentage of the setback, but that is about as far as I got with it. My thought was, it the BOA is going to grant everthing, why waste everyone's time and money with a six inch variance of a 30 foot setback.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  12. #12
    Two thoughts: if the proposal has gone through public hearing by the PC or BZA, I will not flex an inch on anything. If it is a proposal that has some minor variance -- 6" into a required 10' side yard -- and I'm doing preliminary plan review, I'm going to strongly urge that the project be revised to comply. If they come back with a compelling reason why it should be granted (eg, everybody else in the 'hood has similar encroachments), I'll recommend plan approval and issue an ILP.

    I've had the Board ask disapprovingly why they are reviewing six inch variance requests, btw. I send lots of "notes to file" about why I issued the permit so I can have the required paper trail. As they say, always CYA.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 20 Aug 2004 at 11:22 AM. Reason: clarity of thoughts on a Friday morning
    Je suis Charlie

  13. #13
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    In my last jurisdiction(and I've been using that line alot lately even though I swore I would'nt) staff was able to grant variances after the fact(good faith) for encroachments up to 2 ft.

    The number of people we told to redimension a drawing to meet the requiremnts then granted an administrative variance on it after the structure was built was increasing when I left.

    As for parking, never really had any come in under the required amounts.

    I tend to see if there is a common sense and legal way to work things out to reduce my paper work.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  14. #14
         
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    Answer?

    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner
    So, I'm trying to do a poll (not sure if it will work). How picky are you when it comes to zoning requirements? Hypothetically, what if someone wants to add on an attached garage and they would be going 6 inches into the side yard setback (10 feet required) - would you require a variance, or approve it administratively based on the surroundings. What if it would only be 3 inches, or what about 1 foot?

    What if a proposed development (say, Menards) is short parking by say 10 spaces, and if you adjust the usable floor area %, it works out. But using the standard, it is still short. Do you let them go with 10 less spaces in the interest of less parking?

    Say zoning requires any comm/industial building additions to go to PC if over 10% of the existing size. Their proposed addition is 11%, located in the rear yard, will not encroach into setbacks, parking, etc. Would you take that 1% addition to the PC?

    Are we strictly by the book type of people, or do we have some flexibility? By the way, I know the *correct* answer, I'm just curious if we all follow it
    SO, what is the correct answer?

    Thank you

  15. #15
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I have seen ordinances that explicitly allow an administrative exception of 5 or 10% for specification standards like parking or setbacks. I think it is a good idea to add some practical flexibility to a system and to help staff make defensible practical adjustments.
    Ours is 20% beteween administrative or zba hearings and only for bulk restrictions. Parking must either be varied or established through a special use at a reduced rate.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    I have been here a few months. Our Senior Planner has been here 30 years.

    We do staff-level site plans across the board. No need for Planning Commission/Board of Adjustments, unless the petitioner wants to appeal our (my) denial or condition.

    Right now we have a church that was there before the zoning code was established. It wants to add a fairly small entryway. Our zoning code says that in the "R" zone, they must have:
    1. fencing around the parking lot
    2. a 20 foot side setback (the building has 10)
    3. Parking lot lighting.
    It also says that the non-conforming property shall meet all current requirements if it makes a change. Taken at its most literal, it could not add its small entryway without moving/chopping the building another 10 feet.

    The Senior Planner has a history of using "common sense" on site plans. He thinks that they should be able to do this, since the entryway will not practically change what is going on, which it won't. He als thinks that common sense dictates not to mandate the lighting (Sunday Morning use and some Wednesday evenings) or the fencing (since it has never offended anyone before). Essentially, he only invokes this type of thing when something that is somehow detrimental may surface. He is also stricter for new construction vs. something already there.

    This is my first time in a role like this (been doing long range before) and I have a fairly rigid sense of rules. I agree that "common sense" pretty much is on his side, but part of me wants to go "to the letter."

    I am quite unsure which is the "better" way to go. I submit three choices:
    1. No wiggle room. It's in the code. Enforce it.
    2. Use common sense. If the development is not going to cause the problems the zoning code is trying to eliminate, let it go.
    3. While my City (and Senior Planner in particular) may have let things get too lax, there is an importance in keeping a consistency in the culture...

    PS: I'd never get fired for being "lax." I'd probably catch more hell for being picky.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 16 Nov 2005 at 9:32 AM.
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  17. #17
         
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    Sideshow, I think you have figured it out. I never had a council person or commissioner upset at me for giving someone a break but I have had them show up at variance hearings to show support for a citizen when I followed the code to the letter. Now that I am further along in my career I am more lax. Planning and government has gotten a bad rep from being too rigid. Try to have a defenseable reason if you get called on it later on. In smaller communities others will see what happen and expect similar treatment. The hard part is being consistant over the long run when you give people a break. It sounds like a code amendment may be in order. We use a sliding scale when requiring up-grades with additions and change of use. A little change, a little up-grade toward meeting current code standards. A major change, then its time to up-grade to meet 75 to 100% of the current standards. Most people seem to think this is fare.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Senior Jefe
    We use a sliding scale when requiring up-grades with additions and change of use. A little change, a little up-grade toward meeting current code standards. A major change, then its time to up-grade to meet 75 to 100% of the current standards. Most people seem to think this is fare.
    Could you post your sliding scale?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Senior Jefe
    We use a sliding scale when requiring up-grades with additions and change of use. A little change, a little up-grade toward meeting current code standards. A major change, then its time to up-grade to meet 75 to 100% of the current standards. Most people seem to think this is fare.
    We don't have a sliding scale--we just kind of use one. In fact the code clearly states that non-conforming uses must meet 100% of the current standards if they want to do something like add on to the building. We just have a history of letting things go.

    I have a very rigid sense of rules and right/wrong and this culture is very new to me. I feel if the code says that, then it should be followed. But I also feel that it may not be 100% appropriate for me to come in and radically change the culture that is going on here.
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    For dimensions, we round to the nearest foot and for parking we only use the “usable” floor area. You could exclude storage, closets, bathrooms, and a few other things.

    *Note, I wonder if you could exclude the area taking up be shelving? It is only used as storage...
    Carrying that thought further, so storage buildings (and units) require No Parking??? Interesting.................
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

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