"[Worth Township, Mich] All a homeowner wanted was to remodel his cottage.
Thirteen years later, the work remains undone. But everything else in this
woody lakefront resort in the Thumb has turned upside down. A series of
mistakes by local officials fighting the renovation led to a nearly $1
million judgment against the township last year. Lacking adequate insurance,
it levied a special assessment against its 3,800 residents last month."
There seem to be 2 diametrically opposed views here. Homeowner "just
wanted to renovate cottage" and then sell it (sometimes called flipping).
Delipidated etc, but very near Lake Huron. Had just bought the property,
but had a faulty survey, and more bad luck, delaying renovation. But,
hear this, the building was too close to the property line, as was found
after construction had started. Now what to do?? Apparently, savvy
homeowner went against not so smart small town officials, and won. And
who gained the most? Probably the lawyers ...
Sounds likd the cottage was very old and was probably built in an
era when it did not violate any ordinances. Around these parts,
anyone who owns such a structure, regardless of when they
bought it, is allowed to renovated it,
as long as they are not changing the existing footprint, square
footage, etc. So, I doubt the town was in the right. The
I only casually read it. It was my impression that the footprint was
going to be expanded. I did with my home, and that was built as recent
as 1929. So, the town likely was in the right, but handled it totally
wrong. I think most of the award was because the owner showed malice on
the part of the town officials.
it doesn't say anything about expansion. homeowner claimed it was 8.5'
from property line, but was really 3'. was granted a permit without
verification, which wasn't discovered until 5 years later. that's when
it all started.
in my area, as long as you leave 1 wall intact, you can raze the entire
rest of the building and expand the footprint to whatever you want, as
long as it meets zoning codes.
This is kind of in my field and I know of exactly no building
department that checks to see if a survey is accurate. They rely on
the engineer's seal. If the engineer signs off on it, then it's good
as far as they are concerned. Same with the structure - if the
engineer says it'll stand and signs off on it, the building department
won't run the numbers to see if the engineer made a mistake in his
That being said, there's no way in hell that the owner, being a zoning
pro consultant, didn't realize the survey was off by 5'. He knew. He
took advantage of it, and it's paid off handsomely.
Right, and even if you're not planning on adding on. If the existing
house doesn't meet zoning setbacks and such, keeping that one wall
allows you to keep the structure where it is. That's a really big
deal with a lot of waterfront properties.
Yeah, there is no way he didn't know, and even if he didn't, it's his
property, it's his responsibility TO know. It's still sweet to see the
vindictive fools running the town get mowed down.
In my area, if you own something built before the zoning changed, you
can't do anything to it, no remodeling or anything, at least that's what
they tell you, not many listen to them, or even ask:-) A friend of mine
had an old garage, he ripped it down and built a green house on the
slab, looked great, then he learned he was not allowed to do that.
Nothing ever happened, and he eventually sold the house, and I think the
greenhouse was still there.
Add Life to your Days not Days to your Life.
The guy's a zoning consultant and has eyeballs. The difference wasn't
30' and 35', it was something like 3' and 8'. From some feet away a
carpenter might mistake a 2x10 for a 2x12, but they wouldn't mistake
it for a 2x4.
But, of course, that was the whole point here--it did _not_ meet zoning
Undoubtedly more than enough blame to go 'round as to initial fault
here; it would seem unlikely the fella' if he really was an experienced
builder was totally guileless in the initial application; in such a
constricted location it would seem highly unlikely to me a boundary
could be misplaced by the distance w/o being aware of it.
Whether just kept quiet on a favorable outcome or was party to
deliberate deception is unclear and unknowable from the information
provided; it seems the reason for prevailing in the end has less to do
w/ the actual facts of the location than in that the jurisdiction was
apparently faulty in their application of the rules...
There's been a situation in the County here of such retroactive
modification of ground rules for a developer in continually racheting up
the demands after the initial permitting w/ new commissioners demanding
more than was initially required. That's simply wrong, too, altho it
hasn't (yet, anyway) come to the extent as this case of actual lawsuit;
the builder just gave up here.
actually no. existing structures, which if it has 1 wall, it is, are
grandfathered in as a nonconforming legal lot. the NEW parts, if any,
can't be any closer, but if it already exists in place, the
non-conforming parts don't have to be removed.
That may be so in your location; that wasn't what I was commenting on.
I was pointing out that that grandfathering may not be so in the
jurisdiction in question. W/O the actual ordinances, it's unknowable.
Apparently at least the town thought it wasn't; again w/o the actual
court ruling it's not possible from the article to know the grounds on
which the plaintiff won.
Might be height. Looks like he added up.
Maybe zoned for single-story.
But I don't know.
Looks like the township had a case if they followed the book and
didn't pile on the guy.
On that "height" subject I've seen neighborhoods where they tore down
nice ranches or bungalows and put up McMansion monstrosities.
Near my dentist's office in Park Ridge, IL there's a nice older home
with McMansions on both sides.
Totally blocked out his light on the south and north.
It's his house that looks "normal" there.
Makes me happy that can't happen to me, just because of dumb luck..
Good chance a lot of the McMansions are in foreclosure, but that's a
I see quite a few that look unoccupied.
If it is like most township governments, it is run by a little dictator that
thinks he is the ruler of the entire kingdom. Maybe he got what he
deserved. No talk, no compromise, just follow the book.
Hey! My township had some supervisors like that. We recalled their sorry
Yeah, I read that article. If I was that guy, I'd be scared to move into
the place- some of the neighbors may take the court settlement pricing
them out of their vacation cottages personally. Stuff like this is a
good example of why MI needs to do away with all these itty-bitty
governments, and just do all the housekeeping stuff at the county level.
Not like the county seat is an overnight horseback ride away, any more.
And since all the units of gov in this state are basically broke, it
would cut the overhead a bunch.
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