Saturday, May 1, 2010

Variance Application Filed

I skipped out of work early yesterday to go file the variance application for my porch. So if I've done everything correctly, the process is under way and I'll have my hearing within the next 65 days as required by law. I'm hoping to be able to show real photos of the exterior work in progress soon but I don't want my porch inspiration photos to go to waste.

While you enjoy the photos, I'll bore you with my little story of talking to my last abutting neighbor and going to file my application...or you can just look at the pictures!
About four years ago my neighbor renovated her house inside and out and restored the front porch she found in an old photo of the house from about the 1920s. She said she was very nervous about the hearing so she went with her architect and her family. Once her hearing was called, she was calmed to hear that three neighbors had sent in letters of support...
(Love the green ceiling on this porch.)

...but there was also one letter of opposition. (gasp.)

The letters of support and one letter of objection were read into the record. They did not read the name of the naysayer but from the content she could tell that it was the neighbor immediately next door (two doors down from me). She did end up getting her variance but opposition wasn't something that she was prepared for. And she was a little hurt that nothing was said beforehand. I'm a little shocked myself but at least I'm informed and I leave this meeting with the promise of another letter of support.
But now Objecting Neighbor has me a little worried. She has been extremely complimentary to all of the improvements I've made. I've caught her admiring my garden. She even tells her dog not to pee on my lawn. But now I'm wondering what kind of monster she really might be! I wonder whether or not under the protection of anonymity, a nice neighbor turns nasty. She'll probably get a notice from the city but, if not, I have to post this HUGE "Public Notice" sign on my house, like some big Scarlet Letter, advising passersby that I'm seeking relief from the zoning ordinance.
So back to yesterday. I go to the building department between 3:30 and 4:30 (just as required) to find three lines of people: one for building permits, one for demolition permits and one for variances. I'm second in the variance line. The two people in front of me I believe are a homeowner and his architect trying to find out how to word their application for a nonconforming addition so it will be "better received." Are you kidding me? They debated options back and forth for what seemed like a half hour. I'm expecting any minute to be told "Sorry, we're done. You'll have to come back tomorrow."

But finally "Unprepared Duo" decided to go with the wording they had and they stepped aside so I could more forward. "Buddy, what I can do for you?" "I'm here to submit my application for a variance to build a historical front porch." "Are you the architect?" "No, I'm the homeowner." "Who filled out this application?"

Hmm. Is this a trick question? "My architect and I did it together."

I must have passed the test because he took my three-ring binder with each response item perfectly tabbed in the same order that the Application Checklist set forth.

"Have you been to Historical?" "No, do I have to?" "Yup. They just need to sign off on the fact that it's not a historic property or that you're in a historic district."

Actually it was great that I had to go to the Historical Commission because I got to ask if, once I got my hearing date, I could make an appointment to show the Director my plans. If he likes the plans, he will write a letter to the Zoning Board supporting my application. I'm sure Historical Commission outweighs Objecting Neighbor. They tell me to call and make an appointment.

Five minutes later I'm done at the Historical Commission and I head back downstairs where I pass in my application, my blueprints, my Historical Commission seal of approval and my application fee of $120. And I'm on my wait.

Boy, these ladies are annoying. I don't know why they keep hanging out on my front porch inspiration photo. It's hard for me imagine myself hanging out here when they won't leave. I wish they would go away.

So the weekend is here and I think I need to talk to Objecting Neighbor. I think I'll invite her over coffee and scones, show her the plans, look into the face of the monster and ask for her support. She couldn't possibly write a letter of objection after having one of my famous blueberry scones, could she? They're chock full of blueberries, just the right amount of lemon zest and a little crunch of crystalized sugar on the top. Surely she'll be impressed with my use of parchment paper too.

Maybe she would prefer tea.

I'll have pull out the good china just in case monsters like tea.

Have a great weekend!

Credits 1.,5. Martha 2. This Old House 3.,8. Country Living 4. Coastal Living 6. Evan Sklar 7.; 9. Rosie's Whimsy 10. Southern Living


  1. That first picture of the rocking chairs is awesome!

  2. Hi Steve,

    You are too funny!

    Those ladies won't leave b/c they heard about your scones and want one.

    Yes, kill the old lady with kindness, it can't hurt.


  3. Good luck - I will keep my fingers crossed, light and candle and say a prayer (might as well touch all the bases!). I LOVE front porches. Think they are charming. Enjoyable for the homeowners - and a positive influence in a neighborhood. What's more neighborly than saying hello from one's very own front porch! (At least I imagine that's what one would do - what do I know - I live in NYC!)

  4. HI! This was fun to read! I wonder - is it only front porches that this neighbor objects to? I don't know why she would even care if one added a porch, which is historically accurate, to their own homes but I would definately shower her with all the kindness you can muster. Perhaps she's envious...With your attention to detail, I'm sure the variance will get passed and you'll be on your way to relaxing there every evening. It really does change your way of living when you have a quaint outdoor space. I'm excited to hear the results - over scones, you could alway make her feel a little empowered in the process and ask for her opinions on the project....
    I literally live on my front porch - I even had to buy a larger wicker couch so I could nap on it. We're lucky though because we are surrounded by large cherry blossom trees and burning bushes so I feel like I'm sleeping in the trees. :)
    Hope you're having a great weekend!


  5. Great story and I'm pulling for you. Neighbors sometimes have this thing called "house envy". They just can't stand it when you improve your property and it looks better than any other house on the block. The porch will be awesome, can't wait to see it!

    kelley : )