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A shed too big?
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A shed too big? - November 22, 2016, 06:46 PM

Back in October I built a shed with the help of my stepfather in my backyard. It's pretty big (ok, allegedly too big) at 17x12, and it's 10 feet tall to the top of the pitched roof. It's on a slope as well, with about 30 inches difference between one side and another, built on 4x4s and 8" cylindrical concrete footers 24" down. It's about 6 1/2 feet from the side yard. If I completely finish it, it will have a shingled roof, siding to match my house, a couple windows, and a nice steel french doors. Goal was to have its look match my house.

Apparently my neighbors don't like it being there so I'm dealing with the county now. Though sheds under 256 sq ft. don't require permits, apparently the footings do (???) according to this letter I received on my door today. Don't really feel like taking it down, but I'm not sure how well I'd fare in appealing it, especially since it's $600 just to file. I'm considering getting a lawyer to help fight it if it would help, though I'm not very well versed in cost, or even who to start talking to. If I have a good chance of fighting and winning, I'd like to do that even if it gets a little expensive, just to keep it on principle.

I called/emailed the inspector back (who almost never returned my calls or emails) to stop the first clock of 3 days to acknowledge the notice. I've got 15 days to start the appeal process. There's no HOA here, BTW.
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November 22, 2016, 08:05 PM

Neighbors are always asses.

My dad built a garage that was 20x25 ish...and two stories. Im not going to lie it was looking like an inlaw house lol. a neighbor called it in ...i think permits and all the costs would cost $5000. so he just left it unfinished for 3+ years and did nothing. Crack whores were f**kin in it at night.
He look up the law and saw that his garage was legal but he just did not get permits...so he had it finished off..no permits and 20+ years later...no problems.

My current neighbor built a pretty big deck...it sticks out further than mines and i was on the very edge of legal going into city property. Anyway someone called his in... 3 years later he just stopped workign on it. I have a feeling he will finish it up later.

as far as yours go...too bad you could not have filled the buld area with dirt so it set on level land.

Im sure it is not illegal to level your land....and then if you set a barn on it...should not be illegal also.


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November 22, 2016, 08:15 PM

It's true the total height would be considered less if the land were level, but it's still too tall by a foot and a half. If I built an 8 1/2 foot tall structure (height limit) with a pitched roof, I would not even be able to stand inside it. Right now my options are:

1. Tear it down.

2. Cut it down to 8 1/2 feet tall.

3. Appeal.
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November 22, 2016, 08:23 PM

Asking a local lawyer, though it may cost you a few hundred, might be the best option unless you can talk the neighbor out of withdrawing their complaint. All in all an easement based on law and the land requirements sounds reasonable.


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November 22, 2016, 08:25 PM

A couple hundred is worth peace of mind to me. Any suggestions on a zoning lawyer? This seems like it would be peanuts to most lawyers and not necessarily worth their time, but I could be wrong.
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November 22, 2016, 11:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by beatle View Post
If I built an 8 1/2 foot tall structure (height limit) with a pitched roof, I would not even be able to stand inside it.
How tall are you?!

Seriously though, unless you built it with trusses, which I would think would be unnecessary for a shed of that size, I don't see how an 8 1/2' tall structure would yield any less than 8' at the highest point. Depending on the slope, you may even have clearance near the walls.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zx6rfool View Post
Asking a local lawyer, though it may cost you a few hundred, might be the best option unless you can talk the neighbor out of withdrawing their complaint. All in all an easement based on law and the land requirements sounds reasonable.
He's saying a few hundred for consultation, not to argue the entire case.


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November 23, 2016, 06:00 AM

I suppose "8 1/2 feet tall" sounds funny unless you know that the code measures from the lowest part of the grade. With the 30" of slope I have in my yard, that would only give me a structure that's 6 feet tall, including the base and the roof.

It does have trusses. It was built to be styled like a house and be as strong as a house.

I figured it would be a few hundred for the consultation. Not sure about the case itself. I'm hoping it wouldn't be too much over $1k, but I've never hired a lawyer for anything.
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November 23, 2016, 09:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by beatle View Post
I suppose "8 1/2 feet tall" sounds funny unless you know that the code measures from the lowest part of the grade. With the 30" of slope I have in my yard, that would only give me a structure that's 6 feet tall, including the base and the roof.

It does have trusses. It was built to be styled like a house and be as strong as a house.

I figured it would be a few hundred for the consultation. Not sure about the case itself. I'm hoping it wouldn't be too much over $1k, but I've never hired a lawyer for anything.
Just be prepared to tear it down even if you hire a lawyer.


Despite having to tear it down, would leveling the ground put you where you need to be?


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November 23, 2016, 10:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark View Post
Just be prepared to tear it down even if you hire a lawyer.


Despite having to tear it down, would leveling the ground put you where you need to be?
I'm hoping to get an honest assessment (haha) of whether I would be able to win an appeal from a lawyer. If it's a lost cause, so be it, but I don't know how likely I am to win an appeal.

I'd still be in violation by a foot and a half even if the ground were level. This is probably my biggest hurdle, though I'd argue building a shed with a flat roof, non-standard door, or other compromises would not be in the best interest of someone who wants something structurally sound and attractive.
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November 23, 2016, 11:00 AM

I think the best you can hope for is 8 1/2 feet from the highest grade point. I think you can bargain away the slope issue. The problem is that you did this without approval. If you asked on the front end, you probably would have been granted a variance for the entire 10 1/2 feet. That will work against you.
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November 23, 2016, 11:56 AM

"If I completely finish it, it will have a shingled roof, siding to match my house, a couple windows, and a nice steel french doors."

OK how far along are you...is the roof sheathed? How about the exterior walls? Footings can be removed one by one. Painful as it sounds you may have to disassemble the thing. The roof trusses can come off as an assembled unit and the wall studs re-cut. The floor joists and floor platform will be heavy but jacks and rollers can place it to one side. Get a permit, or use gravel and stone block for the foundation. Consider renting a skid-steer shovel and level the area.
This is of course if the appeals don't fly. If it comes to this, run a chipper all day Saturdays and a log splitter all day Sundays as a side hobby, for the benefit of your neighbors.

Last edited by phogroian; November 23, 2016 at 12:41 PM..
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November 23, 2016, 12:22 PM

The roof is already shingled, including the ridge vent. The structure is sheathed, but the door and the little windows are not yet installed. Neither is the siding.

I was able to talk to the inspector in a real conversation for the first time since I got my first notice requesting an inspection a month ago. Truth be told he was actually pretty nice and answered a lot of my questions. He mentioned he just wants to help bring people into compliance. It was not like arguing with a bad cop who sees the ticket/fine only as a revenue stream. He didn't necessarily talk me out of appealing it even when I asked, and said I would actually have 30 days to appeal it since it's around Thanksgiving/Christmas. I got the feeling that a lot of people don't have to deal with this over a shed, so the county may not care so much as long as the neighbors don't care and it's not dangerous.

For the footings, he didn't have a lot of details, but he did say they may want to dig a hole next to the footing to see how far down it goes. This seems destructive, however, so I'll need to talk to someone else about the permit. He also said they usually recommend 6x6 and not 4x4 posts (I have 6) for structures, but said it may not matter since this is just going to be a shed.

For the appeal, he said the board of supervisors goes over it, then the neighbors have their say. I'll see about canvassing my neighbors this weekend to see what they say and if I will run into any problems. Maybe my charm will win them over. Even if that's the case, (and that may be a big if) I could still be struck down as the complaint cannot be rescinded since it's already in the county's hands.

I'll see what my neighbors say and see if there's anything that can be worked out before I start filing the appeal. I don't think I'll get a lot of value from a lawyer at this point.
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November 23, 2016, 02:05 PM

Oh crikey you have done so much work, and materials aren't cheap either. I'm still bellyaching about the work I did putting in two skylights and re-roofing a 18' x 20' roof portion I did two weeks ago, but that pales compared to crafting a whole building to near completion. I hope this works out well for you. The shed sounds like a nice retreat/workshop area, good for the mind and soul.
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November 23, 2016, 05:09 PM

Damn, that sucks.

Another reason I like living outside of suburbia. A few years back I built a 24x36 garage complete with poured concrete floor and electric. When I stopped by the county zoning office before starting construction they just told me to keep it 40 ft off the property line. No permit required for the structure or electric since it wasn't a residence.


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November 27, 2016, 09:51 PM

Well I took the time to talk to 5 of my neighbors who were home and could possibly see the shed. To my surprise, everyone was incredibly supportive and dismissive of it being an eyesore or a problem. This includes my two immediate neighbors, including the one where the wife doesn't seem to like me for some reason. The husband there did tell me that the lady one house further up might have reported it, though I think that would be a stretch complaint since they wouldn't see much of it. He said the county can be sticklers for all their rules and permits since his business (gas) deals with them a lot.

Did some searching on the county's website on variances. This pdf makes it seem like an arduous process with an (expensive?) requirement for a "variance plat" that is prepared by an engineer/architect/surveyor. Sometimes these are not necessary, however, but it does have this caveat:

Quote:
However, upon receipt of a written request from the applicant/agent with justification, a modification or waiver of a Variance Plat, or one or more of its component submission requirements, may be approved, if it is determined by the Director of the Zoning Evaluation Division (ZED) that the requirement is clearly not necessary for the review of the application.
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/zon...find/vcpkg.pdf

Not sure when the requirement would "clearly not be necessary" in this case. Maybe if you're just talking about a shed, they don't care since you can handle that with a tape measure. I'll call/email the inspector or the tomorrow and see if he has any more details about the process.
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