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Thread: zoning variance

  1. #1
    Member UPPlanner's avatar
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    Mar 2002
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    Sault Ste. Marie, MI
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    zoning variance

    I am caught on the fence here, I work for a regional planning agency, however, our neighborhood is undergoing a major water-sewer project and road reconstruction, the plans were drawn up in 2001, well, about 2 days ago they began pouring curb and gutter, funny thing, they didn't leave a cut out for our driveway opening. I went to the building dept. they told me the driveway we have been utilizing (a gravel area in front of the house) is not in compliance with local zoning. The neighborhood is affectionately known as "little italy" a main reason being that the houses are VERY close together and lot sizes are VERY small (ours is 34 x 68), so parking is at A PREMIUM, plus we're in a snowbelt so there's no on street parking from Nov-April............see my dilemma.

    The curb and gutters been poured, thats water under the bridge, the city says its not their problem that we lost our place to park, if the zoning administrator had told me years ago that we were not in compliance, I would have gone to get the variance a long time ago. I just feel like, we have a large assessment because of this work, and we end up being the only ones in the neighborhood that LOSE their driveway.

    Seems like the communication should have been better as to what they were intending to do and why. Now we're left holding bag to pay for the variance, surveying and what not.

    Is this how the process is supposed to work?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian prudence's avatar
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    Nov 2001
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    I helped a friend with a similar situation in Wauwatosa, WI last year. Only house on the block without a curb-cut, no winter or overnight parking etc...I eventually handed it off to a great land use attorney who took the case to the Board of Appeals, and won. I'll see what info I can get you...

    Oh, start with the usual route...elected official, public works dept, etc...BOA is a last resort...
    "Dear Prudence...won't you open up your eyes? "

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Aug 2001
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    South Milwaukee
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    Researchg adverse possession too

    You may be entitled to continue the use under adverse possession laws, but then again, maybe that doesn't apply to right-of-way.

    Damn commie planners.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Not sure about Michigan law, but you may also be able to effectively argue legal non conformity of the use and lot (grandfathering), that is of course is what yoiu where doing was legal prior to the adoption of current zoning standards.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    If that's really "Little Italy" you can do what is done in Philly's "Little Italy" or South Philly....park on the sidewalk or in the middle of the streets.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Feb 2002
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    I have to agree with Donk - it could be considered legal nonconforming.

    Have you contacted any elected officials? That really sucks, I can't believe they would just take out your driveway leaving you no where to park. Oh wait a minute, yes I can.

    Just curious - what was noncompliant about your driveway? Do you have a garage?

  7. #7
    Member UPPlanner's avatar
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    Mar 2002
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    Sault Ste. Marie, MI
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    More details

    1. Have contacted the mayor, and all city commissioners to inform them of this situation.
    2. The zoning ordinance specifies that all driveways must be 9ft wide and 20ft. deep, WELL, I can only find a few within the whole 4 block radius that meet those standards, and it seems we were the only ones who lost out on a curb cut. So a variance will be required, once we get the lot surveyed, to find out exactly if and how much we will encroach upon the right of way (could be nothing, but we do not know for sure until its surveyed).

    What is truly mind boggling about the whole ordeal is, the plans that I was given by the city engineer are dated 2001, so why wasn't it communicated to us in some way, shape or form that the driveway we are using is nonconforming, obviously they knew we parked there and knew full well a curb cut was not in the plans. Which is fine, I would have then gone and obtained the variance and it would have saved the city the money of having to come back and cut down a perfectly new curb!!

    THANKS to everyone who has responded, I can't tell you how much it helps to hear from those who are well versed in the details of zoning.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    Is a 34 ft. wide lot standard in your neighborhood? Do you know when that 9 x 20 driveway requirement was adopted? It sounds like they are trying to accomodating off street parking due to snow, but you end up with almost 10% of your lot for a driveway, and a 20 ft wide house.

    Did they explain to you why you were the one that was screwed without a curbcut, when those in the same situation got one? Are those people going to also have to apply for a variance?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Apr 2003
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    Philadelphia, PA
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    take $50 to a lumber yard - buy an old railroad tie - make yourself a ramp for the curb.

    you can still park where you've always parked. you haven't made any permanent changes. you can always hide the thing when the inspectors come around. you don't have to pay a few grand for a curb cut.

    problem solved.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  10. #10
    Member UPPlanner's avatar
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    Mar 2002
    Location
    Sault Ste. Marie, MI
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    16

    ahhh

    Well we had the lot corners staked out, I like the railrod tie idea, the zoning administrator, as evidenced by the NUMEROUS abandoned houses in the neighborhood, doesn't get out much. LOL.

    All the houses are so close together, the neighbors own 49 ft. of frontage, so its not an uncommon lot width. The zoning ordinance was adopted in 1965, amended in 1985. Have no record of when our house was constructed, the house next door was built in 1895!!!

    When I spoke to the city engineer he indicated that those individuals getting curb cuts with inadequate size we allowed to because they were not encroaching upon city right of way.

    At this point, I am just going to let the city have enough string to hang themselves, if they put a curb cut between the houses, where there used to be one, they are violating their own zoning by installed a curb cut BETWEEN lot lines, as we own 5ft and the neighbors own 5ft. I will be everyone posted.

    Lastly, a variance looks like the only route, unless there is a major unearthing of information that somehow favors us.

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