Think Zoning Regulations before you start

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Being a homeowner comes with many responsibilities and many rules as well. Just when you think you have your own home to do whatever you want, the city or county authorities come in to “rain on your parade.” In fact, this homeowner has recently received an order from the city to reduce the size of her already rather modest deck. The reason? Zoning regulations!

What are Zoning Regulations for?

While it may seem like zoning regulations were created to trick unsuspecting homeowners, they do come from good intentions. Zoning rules are in place to make sure that residential communities are quiet and peaceful, commercial areas are easily accessible, and that we don’t build and pave over every inch of nature. At the end, zoning regulations and homeowner’s efforts are what makes our neighborhoods nice.

Among other things, zoning rules may address:

  • Uses that are allowed on a particular lot
  • How close to the property line certain outdoor structures can be built
  • Location of sheds
  • Location and height of fences and walls
  • The number of pets (both domestic animals and livestock) that are allowed on the property
  • What signs can be displayed on the property
  • Restrictions on parked commercial vehicles
  • The number of dwelling units on one lot, etc.

Should You Worry About Zoning When Building Your Deck?

Zoning is definitely something that needs to be taken into account when you are planning the design of your new deck. An experienced deck building contractor should know which zoning district you are in and which zoning ordinance should be followed. Zoning requirements are typically set on the county level, so each county may have slightly different ordinances..

Why It’s Important to Hire the Right Contractor

One of the biggest mistakes the homeowner in the above example made is hiring a contractor who assumed instead of checking. He assumed that because he was building a replacement deck, no permit was needed. If the permit was requested before the construction, the deck plan wouldn’t have received the zoning approval and the entire situation could have been avoided. Permits are necessary for most outdoor structures, including decks, even if they are replacing existing structures. If your contractor tells you otherwise, find a new one. Look for someone who is familiar with zoning laws in your area and is willing to do the construction “by the book.”

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