First things first. I need more hours in the day. I swear we are squeezing the most out of our time, but I still wish there were more. I have to let the blog slide a bit, there’s just no other way around it. The flip side might eventually become over-posting, and then you might want me to shut up already.
Here’s a list of all the zoning challenges on our project:
Side yard setbacks: Four feet from property line. For any suburbanites out there, you might laugh at that number because you probably have 15′, or 30′, or even 50′. We have 4′. Subtract 8′ from 25′ and you get no kind of project at all (and certainly not a functional garage), so we had to get three variances, requiring three notarized letters from neighbors. (2 garage, 1 addition). Status: DONE.
Height restrictions: The maximum height for a garage is 12′ – this is calculated by taking the average height from grade on all four elevations of the garage, and goes from grade to top of (flat) roof – not the parapet – or the midpoint of a gable roof. The grade change works in our favor at our alley to a certain degree because the elevation on the yard side is so much shorter than the alley side. But 12′ does not allow for a living unit above a garage, so we needed to get a variance to extend that maximum height to 18′ – just enough to fit in a living unit with a decent ceiling height on both floors. Again, the grade change helps us, so we’ve got 9′ ceilings and exposed structure in the studio space above. This required a variance, and notarized letters of agreement from neighbors. (2 total.) Status: DONE.
Carriage House: Building a second living unit – not typically allowed. But, if you’ve read our house’s history, you’ll recall our house was originally a two-family house that we converted to a single-family home. So hooray – we are zoned ‘C – Multi-Family’, and so we get to add the unit. Status: DONE.
Parking Requirements: Even if you are zoned to allow for a second living unit, you are required to provide an off-street parking place for each unit. We currently don’t have one for our house, but are grandfathered in. Lucky for us, a two-car garage is a handy spot to house two off-street cars! Which of course require a 25′ wide garage to fit them – so you can see why those earlier variances are key. Status: DONE.
The 30% Rule: So here’s where they get us. You can’t build a garage on your property if the footprint of the garage takes up more than 30% of your rear yard. If we weren’t building the addition we’d probably squeak in just under that amount. But even though these are combined into one project, they look at the area of the rear yard once the footprint of the addition is in place to make the calculations. And in that case, we’re covering closer to 40% of our rear yard. We’ve known about this from day one, and we’ve been told by multiple people that this rule can be overcome – and frequently is – because of the restrictions these historic neighborhoods already have with their teeny-tiny lots. But our project will have to go to a Conditional Use Hearing, and that’s scheduled in October. Status: PENDING, FAVORABLE. Hopefully our $50 fee and winning smiles at the hearing will give us the green light and we can avoid the Board of Adjustment, which is more time and money. Fingers crossed. (Cross yours too, if you’d like.)
Side note on eating up our yard – the roof structures on both the addition and the garage are sized to accommodate roof gardens + roof decks. When I show you the plans soon, you’ll see them on both. The addition’s garden will be accessed from the second floor balcony, and the garage apartment will have a cool ship’s ladder to a hatch out onto the roof. We’re going to string lights on everything and have super-cool parties like they do in the movies, with beautiful people hanging out everywhere. Yeah, probably not. But you can find me up there on a Sunday morning with my coffee and a book. (The girls are scheming for a zip-line between the two.)
Meanwhile, all systems are a go for everything else. We’re integrating the structural engineer’s notes onto our drawings, and our contractor is getting a big, beautiful set of drawings tomorrow for pricing. I’d call the set 85% complete at this point. We might be pushing it for a fall start, but who knows? Our winters can be pretty mild, and we’re still optimistic.