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Setbacks & Variances

What is a setback? A setback is the distance measured from the building line to a property line. Building line includes eaves, open porches and other projections beyond the foundation over 30 inches.

How do I determine what is my "front lot line"? "Front lot line" means the lot line adjacent to any public street. In the case of a corner lotfront line shall be considered to be along both street lot lines and there are two setbacks.

What is a variance? Within the zoning code are required minimum setbacks. A variance is a waiver of a setback requirement or height restriction in the code. It allows the owner to build closer to the property line than the code allows. For example, in a Low Density Residential District, the minimum setback requirement for the rear is 15 feet. Variances can also be granted to building or fence height requirements.

When do I need to have my application submitted? Complete applications and all supporting materials must be submitted by five p.m. on Friday, twenty-one days prior to a scheduled Planning Commission meeting. These meetings are normally held on the second Tuesday of the month. If a meeting is to be held Tuesday August 10th the application and materials need to be submitted by five p.m. on Friday Tuesday July 20th. Adhering to this time frame allows the municipality to review the applications, send out notifications, and run the required advertisements in a timely fashion.

What kind of supporting materials do I need to submit with my application? Remember you are most familiar with your project. The Planning Department and Planning Commission don't know what the topography or layout of the project look like. Therefore, it is important to be as detailed and thorough as possible. Imagine you are telling them a story. Some things to include may be: plot plans showing the location of all existing and proposed buildings or alterations, elevations of such buildings or alterations, topographical features, and roads. By showing as much information as you can on the site plan, the Planning Commission is in a better position to understand the request and make a prompt decision.

Is there a variance application fee? Yes. The fee is $200.00 due at the time the application is submitted, in the form of cash or check, credit cards are NOT accepted.

If my variance is not approved, is the money refundable? No, the fee is non-refundable.

How long does the variance process take? If the project is straightforward and no concerns are raised, the Planning Commission may take action the first night the case is scheduled. If there are any concerns or questions that require research by the Commission, the review may take two or more meetings.

Are variances always granted? No. In order to grant a variance the Planning Commission must determine that there is something unusual about the lot that requires a variance, and that adjacent properties will not be adversely impacted. You'll need to show there's a hardship to the property and why the structured can't be "placed" anywhere else on the property. Variances cannot be granted to allow a different use in the zone such as a store in a residential zone. There is also the possibility that a variance will be granted but not to the exact terms of your request. An individual may request a variance to reduce the front setback to 15 feet; however, the Planning Commission may have concerns in regards to an aspect of the property and only grant him a variance of 18 feet. If a variance is denied, the denial may be appealed to the Board of Appeals.

If my variance request is granted, when does it take effect? Any variance that is granted by the Planning Commission takes effect 11 days after it is approved. This time frame allows for the filing of appeals during a ten-day period.

Once a variance is approved, is there a time frame in which I need to have my project completed? Yes. All work associated with the approved variance must be completed within six months from the date of approval. Any extension must be approved by the Planning Commission.

Does an approved variance give me flexibility to manipulate other setbacks on my property? No. An approved variance only applies to the building locations that are shown on the plans you have submitted with your application. It does not apply to other areas of your property.

Will my neighbors be notified of my project? If so, what gets mailed to my neighbors? Do I need to speak with them beforehand? You, in addition to all property owners within a 300 foot radius of the property, will receive a copy of the variance request and a vicinity map, two weeks before the Public Hearing. A notice will also appear on the scanner and radio one week prior to the meeting, as well as the day of the meeting. As a general courtesy to your neighbors, the Planning Office recommends you inform surrounding neighbors of your project plans. They will appreciate the effort and the review may go more smoothly.

Do I need to be present at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting? Yes. Often the Planning Commissioners have specific questions pertaining to the projects and you being present allows for these questions to be answered.

How long is your review time? The Planning Commission shall hold a public hearing 15 minutes before the Regular meeting. This time is designated to hear testimony from the public relating to the issue. The item will also appear on the Regular meeting agenda at which time the commission will decide to approve or deny the request.

I've been thinking about this project for two years and I have a contractor ready to go. Why do I have to go through the Planning Commission process now? All projects that fall outside of the normal zoning code standards must go through the Planning Commission for approval. Contractors for the most part will be understanding, as they are familiar with the procedures.

Do I have to speak at the Planning Commission and City Council? I'm uncomfortable with public speaking. The week before the Planning Commission meeting each commissioner receives a packet of information, which describes each request on the agenda in detail. Commission members may or may not have questions for you. If they do, the questions are generally very simple.

How long does it take to get a zoning compliance permit if everything is approved at the Planning Commission or City Council? Approximately two to three business days. You will be notified by phone as well as by mail as to the outcome of your agenda item whether it be for approval or denial.

Does the Planning Office inspect my property before the meeting and, if so, should I make an appointment so I can be there? The Planning Office does not formally "inspect" your property so there is no reason to make an appointment. Before the Planning Commission packets are prepared, the Planning Office staff visits each site to visually see the request as this aids in the full understanding of the proposed request. Pictures may be taken at this time and included in the packet.

Can someone else represent me at a meeting if I'm going to be out of town? Certainly. Family members or friends that are familiar with the project often represent owners who are out of town. Teleconferencing is also an option.

Will I get a reminder before the meeting? Yes. A copy of the agenda along with the staff report will be sent to you a week prior to the meeting. On the notice is the meeting date, time, and location. Notices will also appear on the scanner and radio one week prior to the meeting, as well as the day of the meeting.

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