Kicking my workshop in the trash!
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    raco232's Avatar
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    Kicking my workshop in the trash!

    I have been wanting to build a 30x50 workshop with a 15x50 lean to. That equals out to 2250 sq.ft. My house sits on 2.35 acres and is 2850 sq.ft. Similar lots, are approx. the same size. I live in the city of Olive Branch, MS and according to their zoning, all of the detached buildings can't be more than 50% of the sq.ft. of the house. So, there goes my dream workshop out the door. But, one of the ladies at city hall told me that I can apply for a zoning variance. I got all of the paper work done, such as the maps, mailing labels to notify the neighbors within 500' of my property. I started to fill out the zoning variance application and there are 4 questions that I am trouble answering truthfully and am needing help trying to find a good answer. The more I read into the questions, the more troubled (confused) I get. For me, the questions are worded like I am the bad guy and why should the rules be changed for me and no one else. My goodness, I did not think my building size would be out of place with the size of my house sitting on 2.35 acres, but apparently to the city it is. Below are the questions that I need help with, if anyone would like to chime in with suggested answers, please do so!

    1) Identify the special conditions and/or circumstances that are unique to your property, necessitating the variance, that are not generally present on other lands, structures, or
    buildings in the same district.

    2) Explain how the special conditions and/or circumstances present do not result from your own actions.

    3) Explain how the literal interpretation of the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance deprive you of the rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district.

    4) Explain how granting the variance will not confer upon you and special privileges that are otherwise denied by the Ordinance to the same properties in the same district.

    The workshop is going to be used to house my 2520, woodworking, metal fabrication, automotive work and storage. The lean to will house my tractor implements, firewood and a couple of trailers.

    I got so damn mad last night, I told my wife to start looking for somewhere else to live! If it comes down to it, I will move. I probably have only 20yrs left on this earth and dag nabit, I want my damn shop the way I want it and not some freakin city!!!
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    Robnik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raco232 View Post
    I have been wanting to build a 30x50 workshop with a 15x50 lean to. That equals out to 2250 sq.ft. My house sits on 2.35 acres and is 2850 sq.ft. Similar lots, are approx. the same size. I live in the city of Olive Branch, MS and according to their zoning, all of the detached buildings can't be more than 50% of the sq.ft. of the house. So, there goes my dream workshop out the door. But, one of the ladies at city hall told me that I can apply for a zoning variance. I got all of the paper work done, such as the maps, mailing labels to notify the neighbors within 500' of my property. I started to fill out the zoning variance application and there are 4 questions that I am trouble answering truthfully and am needing help trying to find a good answer. The more I read into the questions, the more troubled (confused) I get. For me, the questions are worded like I am the bad guy and why should the rules be changed for me and no one else. My goodness, I did not think my building size would be out of place with the size of my house sitting on 2.35 acres, but apparently to the city it is. Below are the questions that I need help with, if anyone would like to chime in with suggested answers, please do so!

    1) Identify the special conditions and/or circumstances that are unique to your property, necessitating the variance, that are not generally present on other lands, structures, or
    buildings in the same district.

    2) Explain how the special conditions and/or circumstances present do not result from your own actions.

    3) Explain how the literal interpretation of the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance deprive you of the rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district.

    4) Explain how granting the variance will not confer upon you and special privileges that are otherwise denied by the Ordinance to the same properties in the same district.

    The workshop is going to be used to house my 2520, woodworking, metal fabrication, automotive work and storage. The lean to will house my tractor implements, firewood and a couple of trailers.

    I got so damn mad last night, I told my wife to start looking for somewhere else to live! If it comes down to it, I will move. I probably have only 20yrs left on this earth and dag nabit, I want my damn shop the way I want it and not some freakin city!!!
    My suggestion would be to move to Florida. I've gone in to the county offices to check on permits required for several projects I've done and have been told I didn't need any. As long as I don't take any dirt off the property I can pretty much do what I want. Out here in the country anyway. When we lived by the beach ( in the same county) we needed a permit for everything.
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    First, sorry for the challenges with the city. First, find out if variances are transferable to the next owner. A friend my mine near retirement is trying to sell his home of 20+ years. When new, he put a "mother-in-law" mobile home on his property using an approved varience, and discovered that the mobile home must be moved before he can sell his house. If that is the case, my recommendation would be to build a building that is 49.9% of your home size, as varian. A 1424 sq ft workshop is still a nice size building (a 48'x30 metal building is usually 47'x30 in actual sq. feet) and would house everything you mention. Then, get the variance for the lean-to only.
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    Quote Originally Posted by raco232 View Post
    For me, the questions are worded like I am the bad guy and why should the rules be changed for me and no one else.
    As someone that sits on a Zoning Board of Appeals, I can assure you that there is no intent to make you the "bad guy".

    I don't know about MS but up here in MA, the city/towns create the zoning ordinances. Ordinances = laws. People are expected to follow laws as written. The zoning variance process is intended to allow for situations where it isn't possible to meet those ordinances. But we (here in MA anyway) don't have the authority to approve a variance just because the landowner wants to. That's what those questions are about.

    Those questions are asking you if there is something unique about your property that prevents you from complying with the law. It is pretty much impossible to answer them in any way that would allow you to build a building that exceeds the permitted size. Unless you have an extremely permissive ZBA, I don't see how it would get approved no matter what you answer.

    I'd recommend you find yourself a copy of your local zoning bylaws and study them a bit. Figure out what is/isn't allowed and you *might* find a way around the problem.

    For example, in my town, we have an ordinance that is similar to the one you are running into. In my case, a "detached accessory building" can't exceed the sq. ft. of the primary residence. But if I wanted to build a building that *was* larger, I could do it as an addition to the existing house. So I'd design my new building and put a 10' x 10' sunroom between it and the existing house to connect the two. If I did that, it isn't a "detached" accessory building any more so that part of the law no longer applies.
    Last edited by JimR; 08-10-2017 at 08:54 PM.
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    I'd like to build a MIL suite but the county is making it impossible, we are considering finishing a Barn out as a home after final building inspection

    Sent from my Moto G (5) Plus using Tapatalk
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    How many neighbors do you actually have located within 500 feet of your property? And, are you on friendly terms with all of them?

    If there are just a few and they all like you then you might get no resistance to your variance request. On the other hand, if for some reason there is some bad blood, you might really be better off moving to the country to get the building you want.

    The city might have hard asses in charge, in which case you'll lose. Only you know about your local government. If the government has reasonable people, they could grant your wish if you present them with formal plans showing that the planned structure will look acceptable in the neighborhood, and will not negatively affect things like water runoff, the sewer system, and such.

    Hire an architect with a history of dealing with your local government before you go much further. You may think that you don't need an architect for a workshop and shed, but a good one can really smooth the path in a situation like you describe. And, will be able to present your case without the emotions that will surface if you go it alone.
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    raco232's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RetiredDoc View Post
    How many neighbors do you actually have located within 500 feet of your property? And, are you on friendly terms with all of them?

    If there are just a few and they all like you then you might get no resistance to your variance request. On the other hand, if for some reason there is some bad blood, you might really be better off moving to the country to get the building you want.

    The city might have hard asses in charge, in which case you'll lose. Only you know about your local government. If the government has reasonable people, they could grant your wish if you present them with formal plans showing that the planned structure will look acceptable in the neighborhood, and will not negatively affect things like water runoff, the sewer system, and such.

    Hire an architect with a history of dealing with your local government before you go much further. You may think that you don't need an architect for a workshop and shed, but a good one can really smooth the path in a situation like you describe. And, will be able to present your case without the emotions that will surface if you go it alone.

    According to the city's website map, I have (I think, will have to look again), about 8 owners the city will have to contact. As far as I know, I am on friendly terms will all of them. Some, I haven't met before. There is a large ditch, 8' deep x 20' wide on the backside of my property w/trees lining it, so I am not in contact with those people.

    The ladies at city hall said that the city usually grants most of the variances, but I can't see how, according to the questions. That is what my hangup is right now. If I am truthful, I see no possible way of the variance getting granted. I am not good at all by stretching the truth and just need help stretching the answers on the 4 questions.
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    RetiredDoc's Avatar
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    Maybe the people at your city hall will let you look at other applications that have been approved. I would assume these are open records and that you just need to know what to ask for.

    Then you'll have examples of how others answered these successfully.
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    Quote Originally Posted by raco232 View Post

    1) Identify the special conditions and/or circumstances that are unique to your property, necessitating the variance, that are not generally present on other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district.
    Your existing utility space is not sufficient to the enjoyment of your hobbies, wants, and needs for storage of your belongings. You are not generally present on other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district - you're the smallest minority group possible: an individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by raco232 View Post
    2) Explain how the special conditions and/or circumstances present do not result from your own actions.

    You didn't design or construct the house, so you couldn't have built it to comply with the ordinance while meeting your individual goals.


    Quote Originally Posted by raco232 View Post
    3) Explain how the literal interpretation of the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance deprive you of the rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district.

    The ordinance wouldn't prevent someone who enjoyed gardening from having utility space in excess of that which you desire, but because your hobby requires enclosed space, it's not possible for you to engage in it.


    Quote Originally Posted by raco232 View Post
    4) Explain how granting the variance will not confer upon you any special privileges that are otherwise denied by the Ordinance to the same properties in the same district.

    The ability to develop your parcel as you see fit has no bearing on what anyone else should choose to do with their property. There is no special preference possible when government is merely asked to refrain from interfering with the land owners pursuit of happiness.



    This is the approach I would take if it were my application. The ordinance is there to keep a certain "feel" to the area. You're not changing that by adding an industrial complex in a rural district, you're simply adding a barn to a lot that's certainly large enough to accommodate one should the powers that be feel so inclined to grant you the permission to do so.

    When I built my shop, we were limited to 1500sf of "utility space" and our attached garage was included in that volume. I ended up right up against the other stipulation of 25% lot usage for buildings, so the total utility space issue was moot when it came down to it in the end. I would've needed a variance of both the utility space and the lot usage and I don't have any reason to believe they would've granted that level of deviation from the building ordinance. The 1500sf limit was enacted when a couple people built garages well in excess of the size of their houses and their neighbor's got pissy about it claiming it ruined their "neighborhood".

    Something you might consider with your narrative (make your application read like a story and getting your shop is the happy ending) is to describe how the structure will blend into the existing landscape and maybe point out some other properties in the region that have similar facilities (they can be old barns or new additions). You want it to seem like you're just doing what everyone else has done before (thus no special privilege granted in question 4).

    Good luck!
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    I hear you about wanting a nice shop before you checkout and plenty of the available time left to enjoy it.

    I think you've received a number of good suggestions. I have no idea what MS is like; but try and find out if describing the space as 'garage' versus 'shop' versus 'storage' versus 'utility' has any bearing in how the Gummint wonks view your application. I assume you intend to use this for your hobbies, and not run a business out of it. If so, and if it matters to the bureaucrats; make sure they know this is for your 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'

    Best of luck.
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