• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Neighbors/friends in violation of zoning

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
Three years ago, I came home from an evening County Commission meeting to be told by my mom (babysitting my son) that my next-door neighbors had called to see if the pig they'd brought home that day was OK in our residential district. (NO!) But I never did rat them out. The pig eventually became enormous and they told the kids it went to live a happy life on a farm.

Last weekend, picked my son up at a friend's and the mom proudly showed me the monstrous shed her husband had just installed like 6 inches from the property line, and I was like, when did you get the variance and I didn't notice? Immediate panic.

They know we work in planning/zoning, why don't they ask before they do it???

What do your neighbors/friends/family do that make you cringe?
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,900
Points
57
Zoning Goddess said:
What do your neighbors/friends/family do that make you cringe?
Want to talk to me. ;-)

Just kidding.


I remember once in high school my dad had some minor remodeling done in our house and he actively voiced the fact that he did not want to get a permit for the work, so we had to clean up the garbage real quick.

He did this while he was a member of the Plan Commission. B-)


In the case of your friend's shed, don't worry about it. If it's not actively impinging on other property owner's "health, safety, and/or welfare", let them worry about being in violation.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
mendelman said:
In the case of your friend's shed, don't worry about it. If it's not actively impinging on other property owner's "health, safety, and/or welfare", let them worry about being in violation.
It's up on a "deck", it's 12" by 18", and it's up about 4 " over the fence. I think the neighbors will notice. Not that I will, of course...
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
28,686
Points
71
Since I work in the same community (of about 44,000) I grew up in and spent much of my life, I have come to find several advantages and disadvantages with this situation. I frequently have dealings with people that I have been aquainted with for years and have run into a few instances where certain individuals have tried to use this association as leverage in trying to get what they want, but this has been the exception to the rule. Usually, if I know the person it goes some ways towards assuaging fears that folks sometimes get regarding code enforcement (The gov'ment's out to get me. They're picking on me). I am not some anonymous MIB government functionary - no, I went to school with your brother in law and he'll tell you that I'm a regular guy who doesn't fly a black helicopter or listen in at your keyhole at night. I like to think of it as the 'Mayberry factor'. In the few instances where I have received code enforcement complaints about close friends/family I have had a very easy time of it, there being no explanations necessary that "I'm just doing my job". As a rule, I don't rat out close friends/family if they have some code violations, but on the other hand I always try to keep them out of harm's way by heading them off before they do something dumb if I know about it ahead of time. It is also helpful working in my hometown because it is hard to pull the wool over my eyes by making historical claims 'that it's been like this for years' or that so-and-so is a paragon of virtue/vessel of evil. Lastly, when it comes to planning I like to see things done right (as I perceive right to be) because to some extent I share a personal stake in the results - what happens here matters to me.
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,194
Points
26
Are you the one that would have to enforce it? I would just tell them (in a friendly way), "you know, that shed is violating the zoning ordinance because it is too tall, close, etc. If we receive a complaint from someone, unfortunately I'll have to have you make it right". Or something like that. Make it sound like you don't want to, but have to. Or you could always say you received an anonymous complaint, and *unfortunately* you need to be the one to make them comply.

My parents built a pole barn on our property about 15 years ago. It's set back pretty far of the road, but still visible. They didn't want to get a permit, so they stuck a yellow piece of paper on the front of it to look like a building permit.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,995
Points
31
My favorite family planning and zoning issue is when they come to you for advice on how to fight something and you give them hours of good advice on how to research, prepare, and present their case and they decide that process is too much work and very likely unnecessary. So they just get up in front of the planning board and say, "My relative (insert my real name into the transcript) is a planner somewhere else (insert my real town) and he said this is wrong and you guys don't know what you are doing."

Oh' Joy, then at every family gathering someone mentions how that particular land use was EG's fault because he didn't properly help the family fight it.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,549
Points
25
I don't have too many friends that live where I work so it hasn't been too much of a problem. If I knew someone who was violating the ordinance I would kind of joke with them about it, but do it in a manner so they got the point... "Ya know Bob that shed seems a little close to the lot line. You'd better not piss off your neighbor or he will report you and I'll have to make you move it" I wouldn't rat them out but if a complaint came in I would definitly enforce it.

I have given advice to friends and family in other Cities about how to deal with things like sheds, variances, and floodplain zoning. I told my dad that it was assinine that the Village where he lives made him go to plan commission for a shed approval and he should take them to task for it, but I think he kept his mouth shut because he would rather have his shed than to start an argument because his son thinks their ordinance is a joke.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
Hell, I want to help the neighbors with their land use issues - its all I can offer. I'm not a handyman with lots of equipment worth borrowing like the guy across the street. I'm can't help people with their taxes like the guy next door. I can't cook like the neighborhood ladies. I need to repay some neighbors by saying "this is an outrage" at a local meeting. Of course I don't work in my city.
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
28,686
Points
71
el Guapo said:
My favorite family planning and zoning issue is when they come to you for advice on how to fight something and you give them hours of good advice on how to research, prepare, and present their case and they decide that process is too much work and very likely unnecessary. So they just get up in front of the planning board and say, "My relative (insert my real name into the transcript) is a planner somewhere else (insert my real town) and he said this is wrong and you guys don't know what you are doing."

Oh' Joy, then at every family gathering someone mentions how that particular land use was EG's fault because he didn't properly help the family fight it.
OUCH!!!! I've never had that happen, but it sounds way too plausible not to be true. My wife is an attorney and has had the dubious honor of representing family members on various civil issues (naturally for free). It's a lose-lose situation for her: if she wins - well of course she won, (insert family member) was in the right and Truth, Justice and our Heavenly Father was obviously on (family member's) side - yeah she just got up there and said a few things that had to be said, not much else...no particular gratitude due here. God help her if a judge rules against the family member, though.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,173
Points
51
I have a case right now, that I am not sure what to do with it. I have a cubicle neighbor who is illegally raising wooden waterfowl on his desk. He does not have the necessary acreage to do that... To make things worse, I know that he knows about that section of the ordinance, and everyone else in the department decides to overlook it.

When right before I moved here, my sister and her roommates burnt down their Garage. It was not on purpose, but I did get them a bag of Marshmallows when I walked up to the house for the first time. That was last September. The structure sways in the wind, is far from safe, and is still there. They had a burnt out car in the driveway for the longest time as well. I informed them that they might want to have it removed. The good thing was it was in the City of K-zoo, and since I work for Portage, there was nothing I could do about.
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,889
Points
26
I give general advice and encourage the questioning relative to visit city/town/village hall and ask about the regulation they are concered about. Contrary to popular belief, government employees will not tell you a code, follow you home, and observe your actions to see if you construct a garage illegally.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,463
Points
29
My issue is more the opposite. I live in the city 10 miles up the road from my employer. I am asked by neighbors to help them initiate zoning and code compliance against another neighbor (if you remember the kids with the FRONT yard wrestling ring!)
 

ludes98

Cyburbian
Messages
1,264
Points
22
My in-laws are commercial property owners that are constantly violating something. I think they know code enforcement in some cities by name. They occasionally ask for my advice, but strangely they never like it.

The hardest one for me is my next door neighbor. He has an unpermitted home occupation, an illegal front fence, and an illegal storage area for his metal working "hobby". I have refrained from making any calls, but it is getting out of hand and I am sure I will be calling soon.
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,313
Points
44
My estranged just had constructed an accessory building associated with our business. I cringe if the County finds out before the divorce is final and I've signed over the deed.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
It's not so much what my family had done but what I HAVE DONE. Yes, I will admit that I applied for a variance with Mariposa County in Cali on behalf of my parents. It was a setback variance based upon slope and stability arguments, which was easily approved. Still, I felt kind of smarmy applying for the variance... but my parents said that the administration was very impressed by the thoroughness of the application. ;)
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
nerudite said:
It's not so much what my family had done but what I HAVE DONE. Yes, I will admit that I applied for a variance with Mariposa County in Cali on behalf of my parents. It was a setback variance based upon slope and stability arguments, which was easily approved. Still, I felt kind of smarmy applying for the variance... but my parents said that the administration was very impressed by the thoroughness of the application. ;)
And I'm sure your parents appreciated your help. My folks, and most of my family, live in a county with few land use restrictions (no commie zoning ;-) )so they've gotten nothing out of the money they spent on my education.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
I have no personal reference here, but since we live in a world where it is better to ask foregivness than for approval, I say there is no need for a variance until one gets caught. :-S

********Before I get bashed, let me say that the above statement is an observation and not a condonment. :)
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
biscuit said:
And I'm sure your parents appreciated your help. My folks, and most of my family, live in a county with few land use restrictions (no commie zoning ;-) )so they've gotten nothing out of the money they spent on my education.
LOL... then my parents really had a bargain, since they only paid for a year of tuition at a UC school in the 80s. That's a grand total of about $1,000 for the whole year of tuition. ;)
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
RichmondJake said:
My estranged just had constructed an accessory building associated with our business. I cringe if the County finds out before the divorce is final and I've signed over the deed.
Wish I'd had this option. I'd have signed over the deed, then called the County to report my ex-...

(not that I'm suggesting you do anything of the sort...)
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,313
Points
44
Zoning Goddess said:
Wish I'd had this option. I'd have signed over the deed, then called the County to report my ex-...

(not that I'm suggesting you do anything of the sort...)
So you think that hasn't crossed mind a couple dozen times?
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
RichmondJake said:
So you think that hasn't crossed mind a couple dozen times?
It would have crossed my mind one time and I would have gone for it. You must be a better Cyburbian than I am! :)
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
I have this friend (not me) and he did all sorts of renovation work on a house a while back without bothering to take out any permits.
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,313
Points
44
Zoning Goddess said:
It would have crossed my mind one time and I would have gone for it. You must be a better Cyburbian than I am! :)
hehehe...give it time, give it time. :-D
 

imaplanner

Cyburbian
Messages
6,673
Points
27
good thread - one place I worked the Zoning Administrator had an illegal second unit. And I rented an illegal second unit once from a zoning code enforcement officer. :-c
 

solarstar

Cyburbian
Messages
207
Points
9
My church does remodeling all of the time without permits. One or two of the guys will ask me if they need one, I'll say yes, then I'll see it done without one. Code Enforcement has enough to do here without dealing with that kind of stuff, too, so I just keep my mouth shut. If it was health/safety/welfare, I'd have to raise a bit of a fuss, but it never is. Otherwise, I have enough work to do without generating more by looking around my neighborhood too closely. o:)

What I don't like is when I'm approached on the ballfield, or in a restaurant, etc. by someone who has a "zoning problem". Ugh.
 

Doitnow

Cyburbian
Messages
496
Points
16
MAny years ago We bought a house which had porticos( we haev two of them) as setback violations.

Some of our new neighbours ( some houses away) who are building houses now in the neighbourhood are violating setbacks too much. It causes seething anger in me.Strangely the next door neighbours haven't complained.

In one of our general body meetings of our residents welfare association, one of the members( known to our family) raised the point that if a resident see a setback or height violation being done by e neighbour, then he/she should promptly notify the authorities. I immeadiately rushed to the podium, grabbed the mike and announced that it would not be a nice idea to pick up altercations with neighbours by making this a common practice. It could spoil the whole idea of a peaceful and cohabitable neighbourhood as there are so many violations that there would be fights everyday.

Most common violations are related to setbacks, heights and encroachment of the ROW( in the name of street landscaping. :p

But then violations are a common feature in our well known city. The authorities dont check the small ones out here. :-\
 
Top