An introduction to variances and how they could affect the home improvement projects you were hoping to make to your house
What is a variance?
Each section of a town or city has specific zoning requirements. Within any residential zone, these requirements may vary depending on several factors. When a home owner or property owner wishes to make a change or use their land in a way which goes against the zoning requirements, this action first requires an approved variance. A variance is a request (placed before the town or city zoning officials) to deviate from any zoning requirements currently in place.
I am planning to have an addition added to my home, but expect this will require a variance. Where do I even start?
This should be discussed with your general contractor or architect during the early stages of planning. Requirements on your specific zone can be obtained from the town or city officials, and the general contractor should be responsible for ensuring the entire project meets all these requirements.
This past winter Erickson Construction Co., Inc. obtained a contract for a garage addition project in Nashua, NH. This home was located on a dead-end street and the property line also bordered a small river. Due to the high water table in the area and the small decline in the back, all the homes on this street were built very near to the front end of the property lines, and in fact most were already against the zoning requirements, which called for each home to be built a minimum of x amount of feet from the zoning line.
The proposed garage addition was going to be built along the right side of the existing home. From the picture above, you can see how the home is already too near to the property line and against the zoning requirements. This meant the garage addition was also not going to meet the required setback from the property line.
In order to obtain a variance, Erickson Construction put together a portfolio of pictures showing the house, the hill in the back down to the river, and information regarding the proposed location for the addition. In this case, it was also worth mentioning the home was not on a through street, and there was little chance the city of Nashua was ever going to widen the road or make it a through street in the future. Due to the circumstances and the professional manner in which the project was proposed to the zoning officials, the variance was granted and the project could commence.
How do I know if I need a variance?
If you're unsure of the zoning requirements for your property, visit your local town or city zoning office and ask for more information. They will be able to provide you with the requirements and hopefully even a blue-print or aerial view of the property with all lines clearly marked. Again, if you're planning a project and are unsure of how to address a variance issue, your general contractor should be involved in both the planning of the project and presenting the case to the local officials.
Looking to begin a home addition project in the Greater Nashua, NH area? Call Erickson Construction today and schedule an in-home consultation with one of our design specialists. Think you'll need a variance? We can help!