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What to do with a Minneapolis garage built 2 inches too close to the property line?

What to do with a Mpls garage built 2 inches too close to the property line
MinnPost photo by Karen Boros
When the zoning inspector arrived, it was determined that the garage was only 9.6 inches from the property line instead of the required 12 inches.

A new Minneapolis garage — built a minuscule 2.4 inches too close to the lot line — will be allowed to stand.

The vote by the Minneapolis City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee last week reverses an earlier decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment that would have required the builder to demolish the garage and move its replacement 2.4 inches farther from the lot line.

It all started when housing contractor Dustin Endres bought a $17,000 house at 4053 11th Ave. S., leveled it and built a new home with a $250,000 price tag. The project included a two-car garage.

After the building inspector signed off on the garage location, the foundation was poured. But when the zoning inspector arrived, it was determined that the garage was only 9.6 inches from the property line instead of the required 12 inches.

Endres was told to apply for a variance. His alternative was to tear down the garage, pull up the concrete foundation and start over. That would cost $15,000, so he applied for a variance.

The Zoning Board listened to city staff and to Endres. They also heard from the adjacent property owner, who complained about drainage.

Endres said he intended to build 12 inches from the lot line but that “human error” caused the concrete form to bow. The Zoning Board, deciding that rules are rules, denied the variance.

The contractor then took his appeal to the City Council where he explained about the mistake, and his intention to follow the rules and noted that the garage drains into the street and not into the yard next door.

He said he could have put the garage on the other end of the lot but he wanted to create a large lawn area so the new property owners “could enjoy the outdoors on a city lot.”

“I’m asking for compassion,” he told City Council members. He also said that the extra expense of demolition “would be a fatal blow to our company.”

There was no debate. City Council President Barb Johnson moved to grant the variance, and the “ayes” prevailed. 

Out in the hall, a relieved Endres said, “I had no intention of not following the ordinance. I just wanted a larger yard for people to play in.”

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Comments (2)

Many lessons

A read of this article makes me wonder:
1) Can't one city inspector check for both building and zoning compliance? Seems like a relatively easy way to save some money, save time and improve citizen satisfaction.
2) What is with a neighboring property owner who is complaining that a $17,000 house is torn down and replaced with a brand new one worth $250,000, over 2.5 inches of setback.
3) If the zoning board won't do anything but follow the rules to the nth degree, there is no real reason for them to exist. They should either exercise some judgment once in a while or just dissolve.

Don't always Believe what you read

Bill, you make very good remarks but let me give some insight from a building inspector's point of view.

1. The article reads, "After the building inspector signed off on the garage location, the foundation was poured. But when the zoning inspector arrived, it was determined that the garage was only 9.6 inches from the property line instead of the required 12 inches."

My take is that the zoning inspector arrived at the END of the project, not immediately after the building inspector made the inspection. And YES, a building inspector is supposed to check for setbacks during his inspection. This is routine and nothing new.

2. Keep in mind that the inspection is only good while the inspector is there. In other words, the inspector signed off, then he drove off. While I'm not accusing anyone of "funny business," this would not be the first time a builder moved the foundation after the inspector left the jobsite. It happens. And in this case it is ironic that the homeowner is in fact a builder (probably knows all the tricks). Even in the article, he gives a motive as "wanting a larger yard."

I think the article may be a bit misleading. Don't take everything in this article as fact. I've been doing this for umpteen years and you would not believe some of the things we run into.
Nick
Florida Building Code Expert