Obtain a variance?

Badly, although we had talked to our neighbors prior to this project about what we were planning to do we did not sail smoothly through the process of obtaining the necessary variances. Our house is located within two different zones. White Bear Lake City zone and the lake shoreline district zone — any house within a block of the lake falls into this shoreline district zone. The lake shore zone is especially critical about how the land can be used. To proceed with our building plans. We needed three variances. A side set back variance — because our house was only 7 feet off the property line to the west, any work done on the house to this side required a variance. Since we were going to be rebuilding a large part of the west wall of the house, we needed this variance before we need a professional, personal organizer. We also needed a front set back variance as the code stated the house needed to be 25 feet back from the street (or perhaps it was the center of the sidewalk – something like that) – the existing foundation already exceeded this variance. There was also a impervious surface variance that required no more than 30% of the property of each lot be covered with an impervious surface. The existing house, garage, driveway already exceeded this. Thus adding the front porch required these two variances. Once we applied for these all hell broke loose and we found ourselves mixed up in a dispute with our neighbor to the west. Apparently, the previous owner did some things without obtaining the proper permits so they wanted these things changed before they would approve the variances. The variance board approved our proposed plans however asked that we resolve the outstanding matter with our neighbor to the west before the city council votes on our project. This neighbor called their city council member complaining that this project would additionally block house’s access to sunlight, wind, and view of the lake and that they asked the project be denied. We ended up agreeing to move an AC compressor installed by the previous owner at the cost of $1000. The other issues brought up by the neighbor were dropped after we agreed to move the AC compressor. Go to the neighbors and meet with them face to face with plans in hand and a short letter of agreement or support for them to sign. If there are any issues work these issues out with these parties privately. If you don’t do it this way, other issues can get raised that may further complicate the process or success. If you have letters of agreement/support in hand, there really should not be a problem with obtaining the variance unless your neighbors change their mind. However, since they have to live next to you, most neighbors don’t tend to go back on their word.

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