Thursday, May 31, 2007

I get by with a little help...

I really don't want to turn this blog into a running diary about my home improvement projects, but I don't know where else to turn with this quandary other than the collective intelligence of my readers. Yes, you're a smart bunch. So here's the situation.

We're building a deck. Well, we're not yet building anything – we're just being told how big a bite out of our meager net worth will be required to have someone install a flat wooden platform. As part of this process, we're discussing details of the design with the experts, and this is where the problem comes in.

First, our house:

Thankfully, this depiction is pretty accurate (though the deck is actually flush with the rear line of the kitchen). What we want to do is basically cover the whole side yard (which is actually kind of the front yard because of the door's location) with a deck, from the carport to the existing deck's rear line and from the house to an existing privacy wall that stands approximately one foot from our property line (the "top" edge of our carport [according to the picture] is approximately three feet from the same property line).

Does that make sense?

Yesterday, a contractor brought up the setback issue (he was the first one to do this). He didn't know what the rules are for HoCo, and since I didn't either, I decided to call today to see if our dream deck will remain as such.

Here's what I was told by a somewhat helpful bureaucrat: The setback for side yard property lines in Columbia is 7.5 feet.

But, I said, our carport is only three feet from the side property line, well within the setback zone. He had no response to this.

Also, though I didn't bring it up to him, there are many house additions and decks in my neighborhood that are clearly less than seven feet from property lines.

What gives?


B. Santos said...


The property setbacks for each Village (and indeed, each neighborhood) in New Town are listed in the final development plan. For instance, in Bryant Woods, the setback is 7.5 feet for side yards. In Faulkner Ridge, the setback is more subtle; 15 feet between structures. Check and see if anyone has the FDP for OM, and that will get you there.

hayduke said...

Thanks, Bill.

I'm guessing the guy I talked to at DPZ looked at the OM FDP to get me the setback, but I'm still not sure how my carport (and many of my neighbor's decks) are closer than allowed. Variances?

Anonymous said...

County Permits and Licensing and the OM RAC would probably both be good resources, too, as they certainly process deck applications all the time.

Setbacks are one thing. Allowances for what structures may exist in or project into setbacks are another. Approvals for other things that may project into setbacks are still another.

PZGURU said...

Hayduke - typically grade level sidewalks, patios, and decks do not have to comply with structure setbacks. In the FDP document, there should be a section that lists certain improvements that don;t have to comply with the setbcks.

Or, your neighbors could have obtained approval for a "variance" to reduce the setback for something like a carport. In Columbia, the process is (or at least used to be) called "Amended Site Development Plan" and would get sent to the Planning Board (as opposed to the normal variance process for non-Columbia properties which go to the Haring Examiner or Board of Appeals). Many property owners in Columbia have gotten these approvals due to the typically small lot sizes.

I would recommend calling back and checking with another staff member, or go to the front counter and read the FDP in person so you can see exactly what the wording is.

Good Luck. Hope that helped.

hayduke said...

Thanks for the leads, Anon and PZ. I'll follow them and see what I can find out.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that this information isn't available on the OM website. Heck, you can find just about anything else, including how tall a roof vent can be. I imagine this is a much more common question.

Young at Heart said...

You might also try calling the covenant advisor (Debbie Bach in OM). She might have the information at her fingertips or know exactly where to find it.

PZGURU said...

Just a side note - the OM covenants may differ from the County regulations, and might not even get into setbacks. Typically, HOA covenants are more geared to aesthetic issues like material or color. Also, HOA covenants can be stricter than County regulations, but not less strict.