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Thread: Corner lot: which is the front?

  1. #1

    Corner lot: which is the front?

    Yeah, yeah, I know. And, normally, our Code is helpful with this question: the narrowest street frontage is the front, regardless of anything else. But, here's the trickier part.

    The lot is square with the exact same frontage on both streets. Both streets are classified as residential streets (so no hierarchy exists). Dwellings are located on each adjoining lot facing each street.

    The proposal is to move a historic structure and place it at an angle to the corner. Where are the setbacks, side yards, and rear yard?

    State your rationale and be prepared to defend you answers.
    Je suis Charlie

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    In our ordinance, they're both fronts. Our code does not distinguish or make accommodations for corner lots. Wherever there is frontage, it's considered a front yard.
    "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

  3. #3
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I use the street from which the property is addressed. THAT is the front.

    Typically there are setbacks listed for corner properties that are different than normal properties. I haven't run into any problems.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    We would just let the owner chose the front (because it really makes no difference anyhow). That would then establish the rear, interior side, and exterior side.

    Or make the address street frontage the front, because functionally (mailman, UPS, pizza delivery, etc) it makes it easier if the "front" of the house faces the street frontage it is addressed from.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner View post
    In our ordinance, they're both fronts. Our code does not distinguish or make accommodations for corner lots. Wherever there is frontage, it's considered a front yard.
    Making the lot comply with front yard requirements for both street frontages basically renders it useless. (It's a very small lot.)

    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    I use the street from which the property is addressed. THAT is the front.
    Corner lots have two addresses here, though obviously only use one. But, our code requires we apply setback requirements based on the narrowest frontage. Which doesn't exist.

    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    We would just let the owner chose the front (because it really makes no difference anyhow). That would then establish the rear, interior side, and exterior side.
    Damn libertarians.

    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Or make the address street frontage the front, because functionally (mailman, UPS, pizza delivery, etc) it makes it easier if the "front" of the house faces the street frontage it is addressed from.
    The proposed angled placement on the lot means the front would align with the intersection of the two streets. Half one street and half the other.
    Je suis Charlie

  6. #6
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    The proposed angled placement on the lot means the front would align with the intersection of the two streets. Half one street and half the other.
    Sorry, no they can't do that.

    "Stay with the rigid order of house placement or get lost."
    Last edited by mendelman; 27 Oct 2009 at 10:04 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  7. #7
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Making the lot comply with front yard requirements for both street frontages basically renders it useless. (It's a very small lot.)
    Well, as you've seen first hand, that's not a problem we have given the size of our lots.

    I wish you luck, you've described a real interesting situation!
    "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

  8. #8
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Making the lot comply with front yard requirements for both street frontages basically renders it useless. (It's a very small lot.)
    Sounds like variance time.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  9. #9
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Sounds like variance time.
    Nice, I might have to break that out at the front counter...

    Applicant: blah, blah, blah when i bought the lot i was told that blah,blah
    Me: Well that too bad because guess what time it is?
    Applicant: Uh.. two-thirty?
    Me: No, it's variance time baby!


  10. #10
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Take a step back from the letter of the code. The real issue with corner lots is how to "line up" with established frontages along the rest of the block.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    We would just let the owner chose the front (because it really makes no difference anyhow). .....
    I agree. Our code is silent on the issue so I've made the executive decision to let the owner decide which is the front. None of that "where's the front door" or "where's it addressed" nonsense.

    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    ..... The real issue with corner lots is how to "line up" with established frontages along the rest of the block.
    I disagree. Avoid the monotony.

  12. #12
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    our ordinance basically says two fronts, two sides, no rear...

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    As with NH there are usually 2 fronts. No exceptions. You get what you buy for a lot. On the plus side, you get 2 sides.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Our ordinance let's us pick based on where the front door is (won't help in this case) or where the curb cut for the driveway is. Hope it's not a pull-through running behind the house.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Sorry, no they can't do that.

    "Stay with the ridge order of house placement or get lost."
    I second Mendelman's recommendation. You would not be able to change the predominant fabric of the neighborhood by turning a house on a corner lot. If they want a "corner look" then have them put on a wrap around porch.

    In our town, the front is always the addressed side and the Village chooses (in coordination with our post office) which side with be addressed, not the property owner.

    Do you have an aerial photo that we could use to help you choose which street? What's up with the square lot? Who platted that?

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    I second Mendelman's recommendation. You would not be able to change the predominant fabric of the neighborhood by turning a house on a corner lot. If they want a "corner look" then have them put on a wrap around porch.
    It's a historic building being relocated to the site that never had a porch, so the porch option is a no go. Also, the adjacent building to the west is a gable-end dwelling while the one to the north is a flat roof behind a parapet wall. Since it is in a local historic district, the Preservation Commission will chime in this evening. That ought to be fun, like a root canal is fun.

    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    In our town, the front is always the addressed side and the Village chooses (in coordination with our post office) which side with be addressed, not the property owner.
    The address isn't an issue, the building that burned down had an address and it will be reused for this site. The former building provides no help as far as precedent: it was an inverted "L"-shaped building.

    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    What's up with the square lot? Who platted that?
    As far as I can tell, the parcel has been in this configuration since at least 1826 or a decade after the city was founded. It is, therefore, a legal, non-conforming parcel. Apparently, county recorders back then would record anything that came through their doors, much as they do today.
    Je suis Charlie

  17. #17
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    The proposed angled placement on the lot means the front would align with the intersection of the two streets. Half one street and half the other.
    Upon further thought, it will still have an address as you mention, so maybe just say the street with the address is the front and be done with it. The orientation of the building facade(s) is immaterial.

    If the historic commission spends too much time on this issue (where is the front?) then you've got a bunch of time wasters on your hands.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    I was thinking that most of our square lot situations came from people splitting corner lots into two. Sounds like it's been that way forever. Darn. I always like to find someone to blame.

    Definitely not an easy answer here. But as a former historic preservation commissioner, I would be adovcating for a contextual placement of the building. If your town had a lot of corner lot houses that were turned at a 45 degree angle, then this might be an appropriate location for the house. However, if your town was a more typical straight frontage type of town, then it might not be a good idea to turn the building.

    As far as setbacks, it all depends on your ordinance. If I were to apply my community's ordinance, you would have two front yards, one side yard and a rear yard.

  19. #19
    Yeah, I think I'm stuck with applying the two fronts/two sides as the Code is otherwise silent. It will make real hardships possible for development standards variances. I do know that the building is so small that placement at the back of the lot is not going to be acceptable: as soon as they realize the need for an addition, I want there to be room for an addition.

    There are rumors that the project might have some serious detractors within the preservation community. Could be interesting.
    Je suis Charlie

  20. #20
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Both, each meeting front setbacks.

  21. #21
    Breaking news: preservation folks said no, so the proposal is dead in the water. A withdrawal from the BZA is expected. Bummer, I was looking forward to trying to work this one out.

    Thanks for everyone's input. If ever the site comes back I'll bump the thread for further discussion.
    Je suis Charlie

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Two fronts and two sides

    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner View post
    In our ordinance, they're both fronts. Our code does not distinguish or make accommodations for corner lots. Wherever there is frontage, it's considered a front yard.
    The Clearwater, FLA Code also looks at such sites as having two front and two sides:

    Section 3-903. Required setbacks.
    A. Except for fences, walls, outdoor lighting, signs, minimum door landing required by the Florida Building Code, walkways leading to building entrances, driveway access to garages, and/or vehicular cross access (driveways), shared parking, and trash staging areas, no building or structure shall be permitted in a setback required by the applicable zoning district. Sidewalks shall be no greater than 42 inches feet in width, nor greater in width than that required by the Florida Building Code.
    B. Irregularly shaped lots (i.e. those lots having property lines not generally parallel with or perpendicular to adjoining street rights-of-way or street right-of-way easements) shall have side and rear setbacks established by the community development coordinator generally consistent with the side or rear setback requirements for the applicable zoning districts and the orientation of the lots to adjoining properties and structures.
    C. A double frontage lot located within a plat of record which has a deed or plat restriction prohibiting access to the nonfrontage, i.e. the street with no address, may use the required rear setback for the "nonfrontage" portion of the lot.
    D. Corner lots shall have two front setbacks and two side setbacks.
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    shortest frontage over here

  24. #24
    Cyburbian estromberg's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by NHPlanner View post
    In our ordinance, they're both fronts. Our code does not distinguish or make accommodations for corner lots. Wherever there is frontage, it's considered a front yard.
    Our code is the same way, any side the fronts a street is a required front yard and subject to a setback of 1/2 the ROW. The extra front yard comes at the expense of a side yard, which makes things difficult at times, since the rear yards are quite a bit bigger than side yards. After reading these postings, I may suggest to my department that we consider looking at corners needing 2 fronts and 2 sides.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Yeah, yeah, I know. And, normally, our Code is helpful with this question: the narrowest street frontage is the front, regardless of anything else. But, here's the trickier part.

    The lot is square with the exact same frontage on both streets. Both streets are classified as residential streets (so no hierarchy exists). Dwellings are located on each adjoining lot facing each street.

    The proposal is to move a historic structure and place it at an angle to the corner. Where are the setbacks, side yards, and rear yard?

    State your rationale and be prepared to defend you answers.
    When Calgary re-wrote it's Land Use Bylaw (1P2007); it moved away from the idea of front and side setbacks and dealt more with the issue of "setbacks from a street". So in our case, a corner lot (in some cases) has the same setback requirement on each street side.

    That being said, we still have a definition to define "front" on irregular shaped lots; it's often the property line that is the shortest, given the historical pattern of subdivision.

    The Calgary LUB can be viewed at www.calgary.ca/landusebylaw if you want to see the defintions.

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