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Zoning Violations...determining "proof"

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,195
Points
26
I just received a complaint that a downtown attorney is living in the basement of his office. Our City has it's own utility board, and an employee went in to check the meter and there in the basement there is a bed and a stockpile of food, fit for nuclear bomb shelter.

So, I will write/call this fella, and since everyone always tries a line of BS, I am sure he will say that it's down there for him to sleep during lunch, etc. It's against code to live there, but not to have an office/storage down there.

So, how do you deal with this? How can you prove that he is actually living down there? I get stuff like this all the time - you *know* whats really going on, but in some instances, it's really difficult to prove. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but give me a break - I'm not stupid.

Any help would be appreciated.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
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34
Hmmm, does he have another address for a residence? Is it possibe that he only uses the bed for meetings with his mistress?
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
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2,550
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25
I am currently working on three similar situations, but these are home occupations that exceed what is allowed by ordinance. We think that one guy is buying cleaning chemicals, having them delivered to his home, and then is doing god knows what with them. A neighbor says that a truck comes by twice a week and drops of some 50 gallon drums of something. We can't seem to catch him or the delivery truck and there is no outside evidence of what he is doing.

My suggestion would be to get the police involved, if only for observation purposes. We often consult with the Cheif on matters like this. He/she can have officers keep a closer eye on the property and report any activity. Police usually work on 3 different shifts too, so they would have a better opportunity to observe him in this office after work hours.
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
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3,195
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26
He is not listed as being a property owner or resident in the City and there is not another phone number/address listed in the phone book for the entire county.

Hey Mike - are you the one that knows about birds? If so, I have a question for you...
 

prudence

Cyburbian
Messages
688
Points
20
Why??

Why is this a concern? Would it be different if it were a pull-out couch? Or that ridiculous bed that folds out of the wall?

There are situations you must accept, and will have zero control.

What is to prevent somebody from constructing a very large home that meets code and is rented out? What's to prevent a developer from buildng every home in a SF subdivision and renting out all the "units"?? Or the same with an 8-unit condo building?

Regulations cannot "catch" everything...

BTW, jfortin, are you really asking neighbors to "keep an eye out" for the delivery of drums? What if it's just motor oil? My father has a 45-foot cigarette boat and buys his oil by the drum. The motors hold a ridiculous amount of oil and it must be changed eveery few runnings...is he in the wrong?
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
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Re: Why??

prudence said:


BTW, jfortin, are you really asking neighbors to "keep an eye out" for the delivery of drums? What if it's just motor oil? My father has a 45-foot cigarette boat and buys his oil by the drum. The motors hold a ridiculous amount of oil and it must be changed eveery few runnings...is he in the wrong?
No, we would never have a neighbor check it out. There is a neighbor that calls us every couple of weeks and says that more drums were delivered. I really doubt that it is motor oil, considering the amount of barrels that get delivered there. She is the one complaining, I just get stuck following up on it and telling her that there is nothing we can do unless we have more evidence.

Myself, I believe that people should be able to run a legitimate business out of their homes as long as there is no signage, extra traffic, or parking problems. In other words, as long as it doesn't have the appearance of being a commercial entity I say leave it alone. However, I have to act on zoning violation complaints, no matter what my own opinion is.
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,195
Points
26
In my situation, he isn't hurting anyone and it's not really a matter of public safety or anything, but I have been asked to look into it. Our code specifically states that your can't use basements in the downtown for residential purposes and bottom line I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't look into it. That was the reason for my question - how can you determine if in fact it is being used for that purpose. Basically, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Similar to jfortin - there was this guys operating a tattoo shop out of his house. The only way we found out that he started doing this was because he placed an ad in the paper. He was cool to deal with. But, what if he wasnt and he kept doing it? How could you prove that? Maybe it's not directly hurting or affecting anyone, but if it's against code.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
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SW MI Planner said:


Hey Mike - are you the one that knows about birds? If so, I have a question for you...
I'm a bird guy....post it
 

Cardinal

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SW MI Planner said:
Hey Mike - are you the one that knows about birds? If so, I have a question for you...
Mostly just know about the market demand for housing - I'm a developer of bird housing. Go ahead, though, I have contacts in the industry.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
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4,161
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27
SW MI Planner said:


So, how do you deal with this? How can you prove that he is actually living down there?
Follow him out to a bar one night...get him loaded, then ask to go back to his house. Do that and you deserve a raise. That's a dedicated employee!
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
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OK - here goes.... it's kind of stupid, but I have no idea where else to look...

I asked for and received a bird feeder for Christmas and it seriously made my day. Then, we stick the sucker up and and the birds haven't touched it :( It's been three weeks now! It's not near any thing except for a couple shrubs and small pine trees. It's in our back yard so we are never out there to disturb it or anything.

Any thoughts, recommendations, etc? Thanks guys!

Follow him out to a bar one night...get him loaded, then ask to go back to his house. Do that and you deserve a raise. That's a dedicated employee!
If he was hot, that wouldn't be too bad of a suggestion, but from what I heard he is about 60 and all of his clothes are leftover from the 70's. Not really my style, and I would REALLY deserve a raise!
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
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SW MI Planner said:
OK - Then, we stick the sucker up and and the birds haven't touched it :( It's been three weeks now! It's not near any thing except for a couple shrubs and small pine trees. It's in our back yard so we are never out there to disturb it or anything.

Any thoughts, recommendations, etc? Thanks guys!

It's tough when you put one up that late, the birds have located all of their feeding areas earlier, so they are not really looking for more. It also depends on what birds are in the area, if you are in the middle of town, there probably is'nt much diversity. The type of feed is also important.
 

SW MI Planner

Cyburbian
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26
It also depends on what birds are in the area
I don't know what kind of birds since they haven't come to the darn feeder!! Chad's mom has the same type of food and lives about a mile away, and she like a dozen different types of birds - cardinals, slate junkoes (way spelled wrong, I'm sure), nuthatches, blue jays, sparrows. But she has had her birdfeeder up all season for like the past ten years.

Thanks for the info...maybe some day our home can be a safe haven for the birdies.....
 

Cardinal

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Don't feel too bad. I have counted over seventy different kinds of birds in my yard. At times (during migration) I will have seventy birds in the yard. Yet this mild winter has really reduced visitation. I can fill the feeder less than once a week and it will not go empty, whereas last year I had to fill it every other day. Since it isn't cold they don't need to eat as much, and since there is no snow, they can find plenty of food.

Not all birds like to eat from feeders. This is even true of birds in the same species. I have a male cardinal (Red) who only eats from the feeder. His mate (Rose) almost never goes to the feeder, prefering to eat off the ground. You may want to drop some seed on the ground to see if that attracts them. It helps if you have a hard surface. My feeders are at the edge of the patio, so the seed is easy for them to find.

A variety of food also helps. I have a blend of nuts and berries in one feeder, which attacts the hairy, downy, and red-bellied woodpeckers. Another feeder has black oil sunflower, which is the favorite of the cardinals, as well as chickadees, juncos and others. A third feeder has thistle seed for the finches. I will sometimes put out suet, which many of them like, especially the nut or insect blends. If I feel really nice, I will put out some corn (on the ground) for the blue jays.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
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3,066
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The lawyer/residence thing is not worth a huge fight. I would take a direct and honest approach. "We received a complaint that .... Since this would be a violation of the code, I would appreciate the opportunity for you to prove that it is not true."

If that fails, follow him to a bar and...

BTW, what's wrong with my wide lapel plaid suit with vest and flared legs? It draws attention every time I put it on.
 
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