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What's a corner lot, really?

Dan

Dear Leader
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I know this is a boring zoning code drafting and interpretation post, but it's something I haven't really seen most zoning codes address.

What is a corner lot?

You might think "it's a lot at an intersection of two streets, with two street frontages." Codes will usually say that both frontages are the baseline for the front setback, or that there's a front setback from one frontage and a corner side setback from another setback.



Four corner lots. Easy peasy. But wait. there's more!

How about a lot that sits at a sharp turn in a street, where there's no intersection? Something like this ...



One street frontage. No intersection. No street name change. However, the lot is functionally a corner lot. Few codes address this, but a zoning administrator may make a decision that one side is a front, and the other a corner side, based on context -- where the house faces, or how it relates to other lots on the block. Maybe they'll apply a standard where if the lot is generally rectangular, the shorter side with street frontage is the functional front.

Now, this is when it gets tricky. As the radius of a bend in the road gets larger, at what point does a pseudo-corner lot become just a regular interior lot?

Is this a corner lot?



How about this?



Or this?



What about at intersections? Is this a corner lot?



How about this?



In your opinion, under what circumstances does a lot on a corner actually become a corner lot?
 

DVD

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Our problem with corner lots usually comes down to which is the front. Once we define the front (shortest legal street frontage) we follow directions to get our rear and side. The problem of course is that years ago the city was doing wide narrow lots with the house facing the wide part, but the narrow part is technically front.

Gently curves like the second picture are easy. Pick the front and move on.

For all the others where the lot is basically are curve we take the whole curve to be the front or at least to some administrative interpretation idea of the front and then we have sides.

The third picture is where our code gets interesting. It looks like it might be a triangle kind of lot. In which case the curve is the front and the two sides are the sides. Our code establishes kind of an imaginary rear line just to push things back from that back corner. Basically go so many feet off the tip and that's the rear lot line.

Short answer, no our code doesn't handle it well either. We have administrative interps for everything.
 
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Dan

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One of the issues we have -- really, it's more of a quirk with our organization -- is that the code enforcement department, which is responsible for reviewing and issuing building permits, has historically been more comfortable referring interpretation of an unclear zoning code provision to the ZBA, instead of making an administrative interpretation.

I'm writing a FBC for parts of the municipality that the comp plan targets for TND. I want the code to be as clear and unambiguous as possible, and enable interpretation by staff where there might be some unusual situation. I'm using active voice plain English, with lots of graphics, and including an "interpreting this code" section.

Right now, I have this definition for "corner lot" in the draft.

Lot, corner: lot that functionally has street frontage around its front and side, with (1) two or more intersecting streets with an interior intersection angle of ≤ 135°; or (2) one street, with the lot frontage having a interior curve angle of ≤ 120°.

(Working on a graphic to explain it.)

Something seems off, though.
 
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Hink

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That doesn't address two intersecting streets that meet at a curve with a wide angle, though, like in the last two pictures.
I would interpret the last two has having two or more intersecting streets. Sure it is a wide curve, but they still intersect in front of the parcel. If the goal is to consider those corner lots, then I think you are fine. If your goal is to consider those standard or interior lots, I don't think your language makes that clear.
 

Dan

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I would interpret the last two has having two or more intersecting streets. Sure it is a wide curve, but they still intersect in front of the parcel. If the goal is to consider those corner lots, then I think you are fine. If your goal is to consider those standard or interior lots, I don't think your language makes that clear.
I edited the post while you were responding! Here's what I now have.

Lot, corner: lot that functionally has street frontage around its front and side, with (1) two or more intersecting streets with an interior intersection angle of ≤ 135°; or (2) one street, with the lot frontage having a interior curve angle of ≤ 120°.
 

DVD

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I'd like to start by saying this is something you don't see on those other planning websites or the APA website. Actual problems being discussed and not the theory of New Urbanist Design Enhancements (I need a better E - I want the acronym).

I like to see a clearly defined what is the front/rear/side lot line. The front is the tricky part. Maybe a statement that says the front is the front except when the house was built to use the side as the front and it's been used that way for 100 years so we're good with it. We'll even write an admin interp to say that with the next permit.

Using JNAs brilliant example:
Kenmore looks like the front. Which makes Euclid the back (unless you have some through lot provision.
So where does the front or rear line actually end? I would say once you curve off more than say 45% of the street centerline or something like that it becomes side yard (not to be confused with side boob).

Here is our way to legalese code, but I like the "prevailing custom" line. What my code does a bad job at is saying where we stop measuring the front line. Admin interp says we measure down the line until the curve starts. Which works until you get a lot front that's nothing but curve. Maybe consider some fancy language like it stop being the front when it deviates so far from the road centerline?

1. Lot Front - The front lot line of a lot shall be determined as follows: *8

a. Corner Lot: The front lot line of a corner lot shall be the shorter of the two lines adjacent to the streets as platted, subdivided, or laid out. Where the lines are equal, the front line shall be that line which is obviously the front by reason of the prevailing custom of the other buildings on the block. If such front is not evident then either may be considered the front of the lot, but not both. *8

b. Interior Lot: The front lot line of an interior lot shall be the line bounding the street frontage. *8

c. Through Lot: The front lot line of a through lot shall be that line which is obviously the front by reason of the prevailing custom of the other buildings in the block. Where such front lot line is not obviously evident, the Zoning Administrator shall determine the front lot line. Such a lot over two hundred (200) feet deep shall be considered, for the purpose of this definition, as two lots, each with its own frontage. *8 *47

2. Lot Rear: The rear lot line is that lot line opposite to the front lot line. Where the side lot lines meet in a point, the rear lot line shall be assumed to be a line not less than ten (10) feet long, lying within the lot and parallel to the front lot line. In the event that the front lot line is a curved line then the rear lot line shall be assumed to be a line not less than ten (10) feet long, lying within the lot and parallel to a line tangent to the front lot line at its midpoint. *8 *47

3. Lot Side - The side lot lines of a lot are those lot lines connecting the front and rear lot lines of the lot. *8

And a bad graphic in case it helps or confuses Maister because that's always fun.


Lot Terminology
 

el Guapo

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It is a true corner lot if realtors stick open house directional signs and neighbors stick garage sale signs in the yard. Ask me how I know.
 

DVD

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It is a true corner lot if realtors stick open house directional signs and neighbors stick garage sale signs in the yard. Ask me how I know.
So how many signs do you have in your garage?


I know as planners we're supposed to hate culs-de-sac, but I kind of like them for the privacy they provide.
 

darnoldy

Cyburbian
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Perhaps a naive question—but earnestly asked—why does it matter?

Each side of a lot—whether 3, 4, or 5 or more—must fall into one of 2 categories: it either fronts a roadway. or abuts another lot.

Why not just; Structure must be at least x' from FoC along any edge that fronts a roadway, y' from the lot line along any edge that abuts another lot. Footprint of any structure shall not exceed z% of the lot surface area?

--don
 

DVD

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That works great for our commercial and multi-family lots, but residential lots would get eaten up by the giant 20' setback on front and corner side. It seems you're lucky to get a decent size lot anymore as it is. Granted, new development we usually set a perimeter setback around the entire subdivision and then an adjustable front and rear - as long as it equals 35' then the sides are up to building codes.
 

Doohickie

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The majority of my home ownership has been on corner lots. There are some drawbacks but honestly it doesn't bother me at all. One advantage in our current home is having clean frontage and our driveway on the side of the house.

 

DVD

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So corner lots and overly pedantic planners piss me off. I approved a fence without a variance and I’m wrong for it but I also used common sense.

The lot is on the corner of say 1st and Some St. it’s 104x101. The shirt end is along Some St. so by the rules Some St is the front. The problem. The house is addressed and faces 1st. It was built back in the 70s so I’m lucky the permit says a house was built. The other problem. Some St is a 6 lane arterial and 1st is a local. So using my super planner powers I’m okay with calling 1st the front because A. I wasn’t there to build the house but I assume at the time they intended the front to be the front. B. I assume no one wanted the arterial to be the front. C. I’ll be generous and call the 3 foot difference equal and say prevailing custom and the way it was platted says 1st is the front. Our code allows that but the key word is equal.

So along comes the neighbor across the street who also wants to push the fence out closer to the arterial and pedantic planner isn’t able to call the lot equal and grant the permit. So this poor sucker needs to spend extra for a variance we will grant becomes common sense can’t be used. I’m sure a lawyer would find me wrong but homeowners would be okay with that.

Lesson. Put something in you code to allow a couple feet difference in calling the front or some common sense trigger to say yep that’s the front even if it’s not exactly the front.
 

el Guapo

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So how many signs do you have in your garage?


I know as planners we're supposed to hate culs-de-sac, but I kind of like them for the privacy they provide.
I lived in that home 8 years. Over that time I collected at least 100 signs. The one time someone came to my door and asked for permission to put a sign in my yard, I said sure if you promise to pick up the sign when your garage sale is over. He picked it up. I never saw that man again, but he holds a high position on my Ron Swanson Pyramid of Manliness.

I built a few things over the years from my never ending supply of coroplast. That's good stuff.
 

AG74683

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Wow, something my code is actually good at (I think!).

If a lot has road frontage on both an addressed road and a non-addressed road, it's a corner lot, with the non-addressed side deemed as the corner side, and the addressed side as the front.

If a lot has road frontage on a road, and it's all the addressed road (examples 2-5), it's all a front yard setback. I've had some situations where the lot is in a loop and both frontages are basically the same road. It's a double frontage lot then and both frontages observe the front yard setback.
 

Kingmak

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Front lot line on corner lots is always the shortest street frontage. If each frontage is the same distance, then the owner decides.

Corner lots can also be on one street if the adjacent curve of the street is less than 135 degrees I think.
 
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