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By Karlie in Ogden, UT on 4/3/2006


Well, my husband and I just had our hole dug 3 days ago.  The footings guy, Doug, was all ready to get to work on our project this morning, when he noticed that we might not be far enough back on the lot.  He said it had to be 40 feet back and we were only 30 feet back.  We told him that we had been informed that the setback minimum on the property was 30 feet, and so that is where we put the house because we wanted as much space in the backyard as we could get.  Doug said he knew it was 40 feet because the house on the same side of the street as us just 3 lots up had the same problem, they had to have some of the digging redone.  He told us that there was an additional 10 foot easement for a sidewalk (first time I have ever been told that a sidewalk will be going in).  Needless to say, he hurried on to another job, and we were left sitting around wondering what we were going to do to fix this mess.  The city says that it's common knowledge that there are setbacks, and then there are easement's!  I guess it is not common knowledge to all of us suckers out there considering that the neighbors just up the street had the same problem.  I'm very frustrated and upset.  We had our footings and foundation guy out today to get things going and done for us by the end of the week (we offered him an additional cash incentive for the work to be done this week) because our excavator will be leaving town for 2 weeks following this Friday and we wanted him to finish with the fill dirt and everything else before he left.  Believe me, I will never be stupid enough to make this mistake again.  LIVE AND LEARN.

Karlie


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 4/3/2006


Karlie, Don't take anyones word for it. Run, don't walk down to city hall or the township building or whatever you have their and ask to see the zoning requirements regarding setbacks almost all setbacks are from the property line and do not include easements. Good luck.
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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 4/4/2006


Karlie,

  Sorry to hear about your troubles, but hope you appreciate how remarkably lucky you were.  If you did make a mistake in your setback, you could have poured a lot of concrete before someone figured it out. 

  There was a story in our local paper of a house that was built to completion before a similar problem was discovered.  The owners filed an appeal, but lost.  They weren't O-B's; they contracted the job out.  The builder has filed for bankruptcy, so he can't be held liable for the mistake.  The owners are left with a choice of  pouring a new foundation and moving the house or selling the lot for a huge loss.  Either way, it must be financially and emotionally devastating for them.

  You probably owe Doug a really nice gift, or generous bonus, for saving you from a similar fate.

  Doesn't your county require a site plan?  I had to file a plan with the county that detailed every setback for my house.

  Hope you get things straightened out!!

Jon


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By Karlie in Ogden, UT on 4/4/2006


Jon,

My husband and I were VERY grateful that the foundation contractor noticed the problem, and yes, we did have to give the city a copy of our plot layout which did include all of the setbacks as we had put them.  That is why my husband is now trying to get a hold of the building inspector and ask him that if our plans were wrong in the first place, then why did he approve them!?  Of course, even though the city told us we would be getting a call from the inspector today, he hasn't called at all, and when my husband tried getting a hold of the inspector himself, he was conveniently out of the office for the whole day and unreachable on his cell phone! 

We don't want to "fight" with the inspector because I'm sure if he became upset with us enough he could make it very hard for us to pass our inspections or even to schedule them in the first place, but if some of this is his fault, then something has to be done about it.  If we find out that we are not wholly responsible for this, then we are thinking of asking the city to re-coup some of the costs to have our hole dug again.  Fat chance getting the city to comply with something like that though! I guess we'll just have to see how things go.

Karlie 


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By Karlie in Ogden, UT on 4/4/2006


Tom,

We looked at the platt for our land that we were given when we had it under contract.  The way they have our lot marked, and everyone else's for that matter, clearly shows our property line right up against the street we are off (or in other words, it starts where the curb and gutter are).  There are no other indications of an easement or otherwise.  Believe me, we have studied and studied that thing over the past 24 hours.  We are in the process of trying to get a hold of someone (preferably the building inspector who approved our plans) who will talk with us about the details of our lot so we can move forward as soon as possible.

Karlie


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 4/4/2006


Karlie, The platt map won't tell you set back requirements. The set back requirements are usually part of your zoning ordnance or statutes. Mostly you need to read the language of these to find out what's going on. A lot of places include typical set back requirements with the building permit application. For example if they say they want a 50' setback in the front this means they want 50' from your property line not 50' plus 10' or 20' for easements. The easements are usually for utilities and if the house is set back 50' there is no interference with their ability to install and maintain these systems. Sounds more to me like the foundation guy wanted the weekend off.
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By Karlie in Ogden, UT on 4/4/2006


Tom,

When I called the building inspector on Monday to get some sort of guidance as to what was going on, he told me that the setback is from our "property line" which he said is ten feet back from the curb and gutter and not from the curb and gutter which we thought all along was the property line.  Even though the only thing written on our documented and approved permits was a setback limit  of thirty feet in the front and the setbacks for the sides and back, he told us that was only the setback minimum, and that there was an easement of an additional ten feet in front which he claimed was just common knowledge (again, there was no mention of any additional setbacks or "easements" on the approved permit except for the initial thirty feet).  We even turned in a plot layout as they specified with all the setbacks on all four sides of the house as we had prepared and drawn up.  Why then did he approve the plans?  All along we've been told by the developer and the city office, thirty feet, thirty feet, thirty feet!!!  Why would the inspector then assume that we would just figure things out on our own?  I've never done this before, maybe I'm being stupid, and if I'm wrong I'll admit it, but some things just don't seem to add up!  This happened to the house 3 lots up from us also and I believe they are using a builder who does this sort of thing all the time.  I can't figure out how someone who builds houses for a living and is used to the in's and out's of building could make the same mistake as someone like me who's doing it all for the first time!


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 4/5/2006


Property line is property line. They are not allowed to interpret the law as they see fit. It has to be written in the law. If you don't want to pay twice for work you probably have done right to begin with go ask to see it in writing. Another option is to call your lawyer but I would do the foot work first and go from there. If you go to their office try getting the info from an office clerk instead of the inspector himself. He is not likely to be helpful if he is trying to defend himself. If they are uncooperative keep going up the food chain until you get to an elected official. Again, good luck.
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 4/5/2006


The person I would call is your surveyor.  My surveyor did the plot plan, as required to pull my building permit.  My surveyor laid out the corners of the house, offsets, and excavation depths.

Your building code should not have been issued with a mistake in the plans, and an inappropriate setback is an obvious mistake (they would have caught that locally, but you aren't building here).  However you surveyor should have known better, and this is where the mistake first occurred.

We had to put our house back 10' further than we were expecting, but we learned this when we got the plot plan back so it really wasn't a surprise other than we cut down a tree we would have otherwise liked to keep and had to cut down another that we wanted to keep.  This is a common first-time O-B mistake.


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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 4/5/2006


Karlie,

  If your local gov is anything like ours, they won't assume any responsibility for having approved your plan.  That approval is simply permission to proceed with the project, not an assurance that you've satisfied every aspect of the code.  Generally, they'll help you out if they can, but the responsibility of knowing and satisfying the code is the builder's, not the inspector's.  At least, that's the way it works around here.

  Hopefully, you'll get this ironed out soon and get progress rolling again.  Good luck!!!

Jon


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By Karlie in Ogden, UT on 4/5/2006


Jon,

It's true, the city isn't assuming responsibility over anything, and we decided that instead of fight with them over this and delay the project another couple of weeks, that we could just do our best and move on.  Our excavator came out yesterday and dug the extra 10 feet out on the backside of the house.  He charged us an extra $350 for the rework which with the initial cost of the dig at $500 only brought us to a total of $850.  With the charge for the rework added, our excavator was still less expensive for the digging of the hole than the minimum $1000 on all of our other bids.  Our footings guy showed up early this morning and by this afternoon they were pouring the cement even though at that point the rain was starting to come down heavily.  I'm just glad to see that we are moving forward again.  I hope that at least for a few weeks (?) we won't have any major problems!


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