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The Board of Adjustments – A place you don’t want to be

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a board of adjustments meeting.  In spite of the rather Orwellian name conjuring up thoughts of Big Brother and the book 1984.  The board of adjustments is where you have to go if you need a special exception of some sort on your property.  There were well meaning residents who had purchased a home with an outbuilding that was located in the rear yard setback.  Others who had bought a home with a porch that encroached the side yard setback.  Our project which was a church school expansion request was eighteenth on the list of requests for the board to hear that evening.  The first application took over an hour and we were eighteenth….  so I knew we were in for a long evening.

The way the meeting went, each case was presented by county staff, then the applicant would say why they wanted the board to allow the exception, and others who supported the passing of the request talked and then those who opposed the allowing the exception talked and finally the applicant was allowed to rebut what was stated by the challengers.  Then the board would close the public participation portion and discuss the case and vote to allow or disapprove the request.   After sitting through this for HOURS I learned, regardless how the board members are compensated they can’t possibly be paid enough.  One well meaning resident after another came before the board requesting the board approve their special exception.  Then a well meaning neighbor would come before the board explaining why the board shouldn’t approve the request.  In one case the neighbors were trying to get the board to demand a resident tear down a barn that predated ALL of the homes in the area.  Other neighbors didn’t like the fact that they could see a neighbors shed from the back of their home.  There was no way to make all sides happy.  The board listened carefully, asked questions to determine what the options were and made rulings.  It was mind numbing.

The one thing that became very apparent.  80% of what went before this board was due to someone putting up a fence, building a shed, building an addition without 1) getting a building permit and/or 2) getting a survey and in almost every case it was because someone tried to cut corners by using an unlicensed contractor.  In several cases it was due to the current resident thinking they didn’t need to bother until someone turned them in or complained.  In many cases it was the previous owner that had built the unpermitted fence, or the addition and let the new owner try to make what was there legal.  In theory this can’t happen because the seller is required to “DISCLOSE” what they know on an existing property.  I’m sitting with a room full of people and I’m willing to bet the things in front of the Board of Adjustments were “NOT DISCLOSED” prior to purchase.  The entire time I was there I couldn’t help but think what an advantage Maronda Home buyers have.  In a Maronda Community, the homes are built within the front, side and rear yard setbacks.  Each lot is surveyed and the corners of the property are pinned and easy to find.  You don’t purchase a Maronda Home, learn later that something doesn’t meet county code, and have to go in front of a county board to fix it.  Many of the people in front of the board tonight had been working on fixing their violation for years.  I guess this is just another way Maronda buyers have peace of mind and can just sit back and enjoy their new home rather than have to worry about what unknown code violation they need to fix.

 

 

About Tom Greenawalt

Tom is a Licensed Builder in the State of Florida. He has been in the construction industry for 35 years building new homes in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Chicago before moving to Central Florida. The majority of Tom's career has on detached housing for entry level and first time move up buyers. He was with Maronda Homes for over 15 years.

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