Neighbor's zoning relief - should I be concerned?

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My town will have a hearing soon concerning an application of my immediate neighbor for relief to the setback zoning. They will be building an addition to their home, on the side toward my driveway, and will come closer to the property line than the 20' setback required.
Ours is a neighborhood of 3 and 4 bedroom ranch and split level homes on about 1/2 acres apiece. The neighbors in question live on my north side and somewhat downhill. The addition will come fairly close to my driveway on that side of the house (maybe 10 or 15 feet - they've mentioned the addition and I know one tree that will be removed). Our relations are amicable and our sons play together, although differences in background and interests are enough that we're not really friends. But good neighbors.
Honestly, I can't think of a reason to object. The shadows on that side are cast by *my* house, there's no real view to be blocked in that direction. The only *possible* impact I foresee is that I had considered at some point in the future building in that direction myself, to finish my underhouse garage into living space and build out to add a garage. But not imminently - perhaps some 5 years from now.
So, my questions are: 1. Am I overlooking some consideration? All I can think of are shadowing, view blocking, and loss of privacy, and I think the addition and setback is acceptable considering these. 2. Should I ask or require something to prevent any future impacts (what - I don't know, just bringing it up..) 3. If all is fine with me, should I attend the hearing anyway?
Thanks! Banty
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<< The addition will come fairly close to my driveway on that side of the house (maybe 10 or 15 feet - they've mentioned the addition and I know one tree that will be removed). >> ____Reply Separator_____ Where I live, the zoning requires that any construction be within 10 feet of the property line. So sounds like the addition wouldn't need a exemption to be built in my township. However, you state that the addition will be 10-15 feet from your driveway, not your property line. How close to the property line will it be? And for you future plans, will you need a variance to build? If not, make sure that anything the neighbor does to his property WILL NOT change your ability to build.
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says...

( snip )

If it were me, and I was thinking of eventually expanding in that same direction, I would attend the hearing and let them know that I was in support of my neighbor's plans, but that I wanted to ensure that the expansion didn't as a matter of record limit my own expansion or ability to get a variance if needed.
You want this on the record so that years down the road,when your application is considered:
A. Your potential objection has been documented. The expansion of your neighbor's property should be done in context of any future plans. B. Your neighbor will hopefully remember your support of his expansion and offer his support, in return for your support now.
Marc
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says...

Hi, Marc, thanks. I'll do that. At these hearings, they do document any such statement from me? Or should I contact a lawyer?
Banty
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says...

Usually the outcome of such meetings is documented; just get a copy of it.
Marc
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wrote:

here's my horror story of rezoning. I live and older section of town houses are 90 to 100 years old single family, about 2 years ago my neighbours rental property burnt up and 7 I repeat 7! days later we received a letter in the mail saying they were going to build 6 units on a 135 ft wide lot, of course we were concerned went to city hall and asked the development department about this and they said we have nothing to worry about as the density in the neighbourhood was only rated at 37 units per acre, so he could only put three. Well we were mortified that they approved this because of a little known policy of density point system that is if you make the houses look like the older houses in the neighbourhood you can up the density. we went to the appeal board , won development permit revoked. then 6 months later guess what? It's been refiled, the only difference being the back parking stalls are 1 foot longer and now it's being called an apartment building . development officer approved it again and we are heading back to the appeal board on jan 8 ,with the whole neighbourhood in tow. now this site has 5 waivers,front setback, side setbacks, rear setback, and site width waivers. i would have this 35 foot building beside me from front to back. my only advise is whatever city hall tells you ,don't trust them as far as you can throw them!
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wrote:

There's nothing like property rights to start the pot a'boiling. It's probably impossible to visualize every problem that might eventually occur. Marc's suggestion seems reasonable. Variance across the street (size of lot that could be sold for building on) resulted in a bitter feud with the first purchaser/builder, and completely friendly relations with the next homeowner.
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If you have no objections and you don't see any impact even on a project you won't be doing for a long time, no need to attend the zoning board meeting. Unless you just want to see how it all turns out.
Unless you know exactly what sort of concession(s) you might want to ask for and justification for them, I wouldn't consider asking the zoning board for any -- and really, I don't think you could reasonably expect any givene you haven't found a reason to object to the petition as it is.
AJS

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Banty wrote:

Drainage should be a major concern. If he is building close to your lot make sure the water has a place to drain on his side of his property line. Last thing you want is water from his property running and settling on your lot!
Rich
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but you can't make them THINK"
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Our soil is clay and drainage in this area is poor, but the neighbors in question are downhill from me. He already has a dry ditch near the property line. Are you referring to a footer drain? Even if he didn't put it in, what concern would I have being the uphill neighbor? (Am I overlooking something?)
Banty
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Ya know, those setbacks are for a reason. If you start your car in the driveway, it may be a lot more apparent to your neighbor, or the next person to buy the house. It also sets a pattern of houses "being close together" which can somewhat diminish future realty expectations. After all, if you were to want to sell, prospective buyers would see your house as having less separation from the adjacent one. In an area with 'spacious' as a sales term, you would not have as much of that same asset. Because your neighbor would have whittled it away with your participation.

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It seems to me the potential problem is that the board may refuse you relief when you get around to building. If your neighbor builds to within ten feet of the property line, and you are still within the setback, there is at least 30 feet between the buildings; if you then ask to build within ten feet of the property line, there is only twenty feet between buildings, which may be less than they will buy.
I don't think there is any way you can obtain guarantees now that the board in the future will grant you a variance. They may or they may not, but they will probably have no record of any promises made to you (the record of variance hearings is usually remarkably brief), even if they are willing to make such promises, and the composition of the board may change by the time you seek your variance, and other neighbors may object to your variance. Its certainly not impossible that your neighbor will have moved by the time you apply for a variance, and his successor will object.
The only way I think that you can protect your plan to expand is to do the expansion at the same time as your neighbor; if the board has both requests before it, then they can grant or deny both, but it is unlikely that they would grant one and deny the other.
Banty wrote:

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Unless you apply for a variance and get a building permit, then renew the permit each time it is about to expire.
Before my township changed the zoning laws to disallow any residence on a lot smaller than 50' in front yard width, hundreds of landowners went and got building permits, and must to renew them every year.
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I'll have you for a neighbor any day. Des
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Banty wrote:

I would certainly go to the meeting. Many things can happen during the meeting that the original request didn't cover. This has happened in our neighborhood. When developer got up to make formal request, it was very different from what we had received in mail. The Zoning board let him modify the request and started to approve it. Those of us that went to the meeting asked to be heard and after we had our say, the board only approved what was originally asked for. The developer was livid. Had we not bothered to attend, we would have 100 two story mones next door instead of 50 one story homes. GO TO THE MEETING.
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Banty wrote:

go to the meeting and complain about anything that you dont agree with... that is what the meeting is for.. and dont worry about the neighbor.. they will do what they want to do and not care about you..... so if something is bothering you about the potential of a violation of the plan.. then take it up there....
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If its Ok with you attend the meeting and support him or loose a friend, good neighbors are hard to come by.
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Banty snipped-for-privacy@newsguy.com says...

The original purpose of set back requirements was to reduce the likelihood of rapid fire spread. Consider whether his plans pose a substantial increase in fire danger to your structure.
I would suggest attending the meeting in any event to ensure that what you _think_ is being asked for is what actually gets approved.
--
Mark

The truth as I perceive it to be.
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Since this house is to your North, their facing your property would be the Southern exposure. Did you see the plans? Will there be a 2-story high wall of windows facing your home now? 40 or so solar collectors? Is there a patio, basketball court or jacuzzi or lap pool planned right up against your property?
Go to he meeting and look at the plans. See if you can access the pland BEFORE the meeting as well - the lawyers and builders who file for these things know exactly how to "tone down" the request to make it sound like it's a little itty-bitty nothing they're asking for, when in fact they're planning to drastically alter your ability to enjoy your property.

Yes, you may ask the committee to stipulate a covenant on the property, even if you're agreeable to the current request - that it NOT be granted any future variences, or at least not in your direction - and that the remaining property be considered "buffer" for passive, not active use only. (No pool, jacuzzi, basketball courts, driveways, lean-to's, greenhouses, patios, decks, etc on the land between what's left of their side yard and your side yard.)
I have seen a general contractor put 4 additions on his 4 bedroom cape...
First was the finishing of the attached (via breezeway) garage & breezeway and the addition of a new 2-car garage.
Next the full dormer.
Next a full dormer on the newer garage and the old garage.
Next was a front porch, the expansion of the dormer above, and a gazebo on the end of the porch.
The house now looks like there was a tornado and 3 different houses landed on top of, and next to his. The monstrosity is completely out of character with the neighborhood of medium size capes and ranches. Really a shame.

Absolutely.
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says...

It's a single story addition for a dining room, and a front and back porch, to be built before roofing the whole house (the new roofing being sorely needed).

Per another poster's suggestion I went to the town hall today to look at the plans actually filed. It accorded with my neighbors' description, and actually doesn't violate the setbacks by very much. Only by about three feet toward my house.

Yikes!
I don't think this will happen here - it's a pretty straightforward addition, and my neighbors are in my estimation pretty straightforward people. Nonetheless, I'll mention at the hearing that the land left between the house and my property should be kept to passive uses.

I'll be there. I'm happy with the plans I saw in the Town Hall today, and won't object unless there is some surprise. Don't think there will be, though. I'll let y'all know how it goes.
Banty
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