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Thread: Requiring zoning permits instead of building permits

  1. #1
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    Requiring zoning permits instead of building permits

    The BZA that I am staff for has recently been very stingy with granting Variances for fence encroachments on corner lots. (Ordinance prohibits fences from encroaching B/L.) We are currently attemting to modify residential fence section of the ordinance to allow sligh encroachment (10-feet). Whether the ordinance amendment is approved or not, we still have an enforcement problem because we do not require building permits for fences. Our director refuses to require building permits for fences when the issue comes up at our BZA meetings.

    I was wondering if a zoning permit could be implemented rather than a building permit at a minimum fee in order to satisfy the zoning requirement for fencing as well as other improvements that do not currently require building permits like sheds.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Certainly a zoning permit would be fine. Most communities I've worked in require a zoning permit AND a building permit for erecting structures. There's no reason why you cannot issue a zoning compliance certificate or permit and require it. If you've got the regulation in your ordinance, you should enforce it. Otherwise, take the regulation out of your ordinance!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Another option is to require the applicants to provide you with an engineered site plan showing all structures on the lot and the proposed location of the fence. Once construction of the fence has begun you or your designee can perform a compliance inspection to ensure the fence (other other structures not requiring permitting) is in the proper location. I understand that some jurisdictions are hesitant to require additional permitting and cost to the applicant during these stressful economic times.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    We do zoning permits for fences all the time. I keep them limited to property line fences, or enclosures and ignore the mini walls that people use to build patios, but it's keeps giant front yard fences in check.

  5. #5
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by shell_waster View post
    Another option is to require the applicants to provide you with an engineered site plan showing all structures on the lot and the proposed location of the fence. ....
    Engineered site plan? For a fence? If I suggested that in my jurisdiction, I'd be looking for work with TO in the desert before the lunch hour started.

    Back to the OP. Has it been a problem or are you just trying to make work for yourself? Just seems like overkill to me.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    If the boss does not care for fence building permits, I would guess zoning permits face a similar fate. The plus side of permits is that the owner will have full knowledge of the regs. One of the many minuses is that an owner will bring in photos of all the improper fences in the neighborhood.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    If you've got the regulation in your ordinance, you should enforce it. Otherwise, take the regulation out of your ordinance!
    This is my question too. I don't understand your problem. Don't you have an enforcement section of the ordinance? If somebody's grass is 24 inches long, you don't ask them if they have a permit for it, you ask them to cut it or be subject to enforcement measures.

  8. #8
    (for now) Frozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    We require a building permit for pretty much everything regulated by the Zoning Code. There are a few fairly innocuous things that are regulated by zoning, but don't require a building permit - swingsets, flagpoles and outdoor laundry lines.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I would agree with RJ that asking for an engineering plan would be way out of the reach of almost every resident in town.

    We ask them to pull their plat of survey (mortgage survey) and mark the line of the fence on the survey. We also require a cut sheet or the information they get from Home Depot or Lowes (usually) that describes the dimensions of the fence.

    We review to make sure they aren't putting the fence in an easement or drainage easement (this happens way more than you think!). We also want to make sure that if they put up the fence close to a property line, that they put the fence right on the property line in order to avoid neighbor grass mowing wars. When the fence is up, they call in to the building department for an inspection.

    In another community I worked for, we required the mortgage survey scribble, the cut sheet from the purveryor, and required the property owner to stake the fence line before pouring the post holes for an inspection -- this prevented the owner from putting up the fence in the wrong location and having to pull it out.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    We also want to make sure that if they put up the fence close to a property line, that they put the fence right on the property line in order to avoid neighbor grass mowing wars. When the fence is up, they call in to the building department for an inspection.
    Off topic, but requiring a fence to be placed right on the property line can be problematic, as any maintenance of the fence on the neighbor's side would require that property owner's permission. Putting fences right on property lines can actually be pretty risky business, especially for older lots/parcels where the survey pins may not be able to be located. It could make for an unpleasant surprise 10 years down the road when a new survey is completed.

    I see your point with the grass, though. Hopefully most people wouldn't mind mowing an additional foot or two on their neighbor's property. Heck, lots of people mow onto their neighbor's property without realizing it. How about we all just skip the lawn and go back to native plantings.

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