Getting a Variance

In my last garage post, I shared some of what we went through to get our garage building permit. After several months of back and forth, we were finally able to convince our town that we knew what we were doing and were following all of their rules. BUT… they still decided to make us get a variance, because that was the standard set in the past when someone else wanted to build a large garage.

The variance process meant more time and more money. We had to resubmit two blueprint sized copies of our plans (not cheap to print) along with a $100 check for who knows what. Our “hearing” was set for a Thursday night, and we were the last on the agenda. Basically, we had to present our plans before a panel of 7 board members, and they would vote on whether or not to allow us to proceed in getting a permit. After watching the three people ahead us get voted down for various business ventures (things like a school in an industrial park…?), things were not looking promising. I feel like all of the board members secretly wanted to be judges in court because the procedures and formalities reminded me a lot of when I was on jury duty for a case. It was almost comical. When it was our turn, Jerm went forward and presented the plans. He told them what we wanted to do, and why we wanted to build a garage that large—I think his speech lasted all of about a minute. He is a man of few words when it comes to public speaking like that.

After he was done, the head of the building department spoke up and started praising Jerm’s resourcefulness to all of the board members. He also told them how much he admires what we are doing and the dreams we have for the garage. It was really nice to hear someone that understood us, and I think he really helped defend our case. I was definitely having a proud wife moment tearing up in the back row listening to him praise Jerm. After a few questions, they unanimously voted to allow us to move forward. We celebrated with chipotle! But we weren’t home free just yet.

After we won that battle, they still would not approve our plans without a licensed architect’s stamp on them. I don’t think they are used to homeowners drawing up their own blueprints, so they wanted another opinion to make sure everything was structurally sound. What did that mean for us? More time and more money… I was beginning to sense a theme.

Architect Stamp

Luckily, our local lumber yard gave us the name and number of an architect that lived a few blocks from us. He invited us to come over that same night so we could go over the plans together. As it turned out, he is into auto racing just like we are, so we had a lot in common. I think the majority of that first meeting was spent talking cars rather than garage. He gave Jerm a few changes to make to the way things were drawn on the blueprints, but overall our initial plans were just fine. The next day we went back with our changes and he stamped the drawings for us. We were very lucky to have it done so quickly and I think we only paid about $300 – way less than if we would have gone through somewhere else.

With our stamped drawings in hand, we went to finish applying for the building permit. But, it turned out that our county demo permit had expired in the time it took to get the variance and the drawings stamped. Guess what that meant! Yup… we had to shell out another $200 to get the demo permit re-issued. Very frustrating, but by that point we just wanted to start on our garage.

After getting that straightened out, we finally were granted this very coveted piece of paper—our building permit.

Building Pemit

We wasted no time in demoing our current garage and getting to work on the new one. We were both so glad when this permit process was over and that we didn’t have to compromise what we wanted in order to build it.

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