Zoning and Other Pesky Details

I am fascinated by the process of zoning and permitting.  This is probably a little more that I should share about my natural deference to authority, but I just think zoning is cool.  In theory, zoning and permitting exist to protect both the common good and the personal safety of a homeowner.  In M&J’s project, both zoning and permitting will figure heavily.

Let's Inspect
Let’s Inspect- It may not be pretty, but it is necessary.

J’s advice is to get a property survey done before you ever start mentally plotting a project like his.  In Pennsylvania, oddly, a property survey is not mandatory at the sale of a property, as it is in some other states.  So when M&J started, they had an idea but no clear boundaries of their actual property.  On their city lot, existing tree lines and demarcations where men politely defer to their neighbor’s mower  rule the land.

But when you are planting a new structure, you’ve literally got to know where you stand.  On this project, although a standard two-car garage would have been the original ideal, the lot lines wouldn’t allow it.  A detached garage must be no closer than a certain number of feet from the lot line and from the house.  It turns out that a one car garage is the only thing that can fit in the existing lawn of M&J’s property, so a one-car garage it is!  And since there is literally no wiggle room, the contractors had to be very careful to put it in exactly the right spot, which requires a property survey and pins.

The other thing to keep in mind is that permits have to be obtained on a job like this, and that means that township inspectors will have to come out and inspect the contractor’s work at critical junctures in the process, like after rough framing, plumbing, concrete and electrical work are completed.  With an experienced, quality contractor, you won’t expect that there will be anything to “catch” during the inspection, but it sure is a learning experience.  I personally like hanging out with the inspector because they will tell you what’s going on inside your structure, which you’ll probably never see inside again.  And because you have to meet with the same inspectors that all of the other renovating homeowners will be meeting with, sometimes the inspections can slow down the plan by a few days or even weeks.  It’s been known to happen.

My latest guilty pleasure on TV is an HGTV show called Holmes on Homes.  Want to know what happens when things don’t get zoned, permitted, and inspected properly?  Mike Holmes turns this whole process in to entertainment.  But for your sake, I’d like to see the messes that he uncovers on your TV and not on your project!