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Accessory buildings without principle use

Maister

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I'm going to post this because I just dealt with the same conversation/issue for the 178th time in my career: "Hey, I'd like to buy this vacant residential lot and put a pole barn on it and was wondering...." [insert question about: setbacks, or building height, or lot coverage, or any other zoning-related question you can think to name other than the one question they SHOULD be asking: can I build an accessory structure without a principle use?] Invariably, I have been met with shock, disbelief, and/or indignation when I have to tell folks they need to have house on residentially zoned property before they can start constructing accessory storage structures. Let me re-emphasize that the shock and disbelief expressed is near universal. Thing is, I have never encountered a community that did NOT have a requirement that a principle use must exist in order to construct an accessory building (disclaimer: I am aware of certain exceptions with a handful of rural communities in Ag zones). So it's not like this is some strange or unique requirement coming out of nowhere.

Why on earth would so many people assume that it would be okay to purchase a lot in the middle of a freakin' subdivision and build a freakin' pole barn without a house? There isn't universal surprise when you tell folks they have to meet setbacks, building heights, permitted uses in a zone, or lot coverage, why then should this particular requirement be considered so alien and unreasonable by so many?
 

luckless pedestrian

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lol - hand them a dictionary and have them look up the word accessory

but I will say the Maine-way of building your own house is to start with the garage that has a room with a bathroom on the second floor that you occupy while building "the main house" - but even then, it's a garage apartment which technically is a dwelling

are they starting a farm?
 

Doohickie

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Question: What about a person who owns a double lot. If they're house is on one lot, would it be acceptable in your municipality to put an accessory building on the other lot?
 

Faust_Motel

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Yeah, similar levels of disbelief where I work. We even amended the code to make it more explicit. To the lot question- I probably have a little bit of administrative flexibility on that, but if it's a lot you could get a permit to build a dwelling on, I'd probably say no, you need a primary use and structure first.

We have done our share of "live in the garage, then build the house" situations. It works fine.
 

Maister

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Question: What about a person who owns a double lot. If they're house is on one lot, would it be acceptable in your municipality to put an accessory building on the other lot?
So long as the lots are combined, yes. Otherwise, if/when the lots end up getting sold separately, you'll end up with real estate listings like "great investment opportunity for a storage facility in a neighborhood setting. Seller motivated."
 

Gedunker

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Yeah, similar levels of disbelief where I work. We even amended the code to make it more explicit. To the lot question- I probably have a little bit of administrative flexibility on that, but if it's a lot you could get a permit to build a dwelling on, I'd probably say no, you need a primary use and structure first.

We have done our share of "live in the garage, then build the house" situations. It works fine.
I have seen my fair share of dumbfounded people wondering what earthly public good we are serving by prohibiting accessory uses without a principal use. Those that have already closed on the property tend to be most vocal. :r:

We too have allowed a few "living in the garage while we build the house" situations. We are a little skeptical though, so we make them put a timeline on finishing the principal dwelling so we can put our thumb on them if they take too long.
 

Maister

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What does this involve? What can you reasonably do if they miss deadlines?
I've seen some places that require the posting of a performance bond before they'd even issue the permit. At a minimum, you could always say the permit has expired and cite them for a civil infraction for, say, an unsafe or unfinished structure. Attractive nuisance. That kind of thing. The ones that are a problem are the ones that either walk away or never intended to build a principal use to begin with.
 

Gedunker

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We also use more frequent visits from the building inspectors when the garage-dwellers are lollygagging. Around here, if they know they are being watched, they tend not to take too much advantage. If no one's looking, on the other hand, they often slow-play it.
 

Maister

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I have seen my fair share of dumbfounded people wondering what earthly public good we are serving by prohibiting accessory uses without a principal use. Those that have already closed on the property tend to be most vocal. :r:
When questioned about it, I've explained it in terms of economic protection. You wouldn't like it, for instance, if there was an undeveloped lot in your subdivision right next to your house and someone buys it so they can put up a dog kennel. That could conceivably affect the value of surrounding properties.
 

Doohickie

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I've seen some places that require the posting of a performance bond before they'd even issue the permit. At a minimum, you could always say the permit has expired and cite them for a civil infraction for, say, an unsafe or unfinished structure. Attractive nuisance. That kind of thing. The ones that are a problem are the ones that either walk away or never intended to build a principal use to begin with.
Makes sense.

A local gas station started an addition to add space for a convenience store and kitchen. They got it roughed out, got the Tyvek on, and it's been like that for over a year. I wonder what the city is doing about it.
 

Doohickie

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When questioned about it, I've explained it in terms of economic protection. You wouldn't like it, for instance, if there was an undeveloped lot in your subdivision right next to your house and someone buys it so they can put up a dog kennel. That could conceivably affect the value of surrounding properties.
I can see that.

A local (outside the city limits) kennel popped up and was eventually shut down by the city it was situated in. I don't know too much about the details, but a local animal rescue ended up taking in 52 (!) unclaimed dogs. It's taken them almost a year and I think they're still trying to find fosters/adopters for some of the dogs. (Some dogs had to stay behind at least at the start because they couldn't line up enough fosters). So I can see how a scofflaw kennel could drag an area down.
 
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