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Nosy neighbors and code enforcement  RSS feed

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I'm not sure where this should go so feel free to move it.

I'm going through issues where code enforcement has showed up to "give me a heads up that some one complained about my place."  They couldn't tell me exactly what the complaint was or of course who made the complaint but since there was a complaint they had to inspect and write me up for anything they found that was wrong.  The enforcement officer seemed fairly cool and I was expecting him to get back in touch with me and let me know what I needed to do, I gave him my card.  Anyway like a week and a half later I got a Violation Notice saying I had a week to remove all non permitted structures and uses from my property and to call if I had any questions.  Well I spent a week calling while I also took down my canopy over my ourdoor living space and removed all the plastic from over my plants.  They didn't call back till the day after I'm supposed to fix everything and they can't really tell me what it is that still needs fixing!!!

Argh.  Apparently if you tie a piece of shade cloth to a tree, it constitutes a structure and requires a permit with engineering drawings!!!

Of course when they did call me back today they noted that it wasn't actually the "structures" that the people were complaining about.  Apparently the complaint about my garden was "everything" about it but since a garden is legal, code enforcement doesn't care about that.  (Ya know, if I removed all gardens and turned the place back over to lawns, then some one else in the neighborhood would complain that I didn't plant sunflowers this year!!!)  There is no pleasing these people.

So, I totally want to move out onto some ag land were no one cares what I do (though that probably isn't totally true in most places) but with property values what they are right now, I can't sell this place in order to do anything else.  It is very irritating to have so many people around who can't just mind their own business. 
Sigh,
I just needed to rant.  Anyone know of someone with a farm who wants a little house in the outskirts of the Orlando area who want's to trade?
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Sounds to me like you were sent a standard form letter in response to a complaint.  "Please comply with code" with no specific violations listed is a generic letter allowing the city to cover their arses-they have documentation that action was taken. 

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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yea but saying I have to comply by a certain date or be charged $1000 a day till I comply doesn't really make me relax.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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anyone know where I can get certified engineering drawings for a hobby greenhouse?  Apparently if I want a greenhouse or shade house or canopy or anything, I have to have engineering drawings for it.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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I'm in touch.  I just found out a few moments ago that the city inspectors were here Friday while I was at work to inspect the house.  The INSIDE of the house-has to do with the tree fall and insurance claim.  Someone climbed in through a window, broke the blinds, and I'm trying to find out from my atty why they were even here and what exactly they were looking for.

They probably need to list you a particular violation to correct, and there is an appeals process which gives you time to find out what the problem is before they start stomping on your throat.

As soon as these shutdowns are over, I'm getting my land.  Living in town is BS.  Seems like the neighbors have more control over what you do on your own land than you do. 

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Our neighborhood is for the most part a really nice place but saddly we have enough people who have nothing better to do than wander the neighborhood looking for things to complain about.

But there isn't a whole lot I can do about most of it.  I just don't want them to complain about my hens because I really like my fresh eggs.  As far as I know, none of the complaint's even know there are birds here.  It seems backyard chickens are not expressly forbidden but about all it takes to force some one to give up their animals is to complain that they are a nuisance and apparently if they say so, it's true.

I really want to find some land where they can't dictate my garden but I don't think I can afford to buy anything.

I was researching some of the codes in the county next to me.  Apparently you have to get a permit to cut a tree down there and you have to plant replacement trees to boot.  !!!  What you gonna charge me $30 per tree and I have to replace them  (oh $30 per tree is only up to the first 4 trees as long as they are less than 4" around, if you are cutting more than 4 trees or big trees the cost per tree is higher and rules apparently stricter.)  Ok if they are getting that crazy I'm not sure I want to move there.
 
Ardilla Esch
Posts: 228
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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I don't envy the neighbors and codes you have to deal with.

First off.  When you receive a vague notice like that, the best thing to do is write a polite letter stating you want to comply but need clarification and send it to the agency by certified mail.  They pretty much have to respond in writing for the notice to carry any weight.  Also, documentation can only help you.  Phone calls are nice, but they don't mean much if they start asking why you haven't complied by the deadline.  Also, certified mail prevents them from saying 'we never received your letter'.

I'm not an attorney, but I help clients deal with NOVs frequently.  The best thing you can do is be responsive, and that can mean communication without fixing the violation.  Delays caused by your requesting clarification and code references usually won't cause fines to be levied and usually gets a favorable response.  Remember, the people you are dealing with are accustomed to being yelled at by irate homeowners and being forced into neighbor squabbles.  When they get approached calmly and with respect, they tend to relax.

If you have to deal with a HOA, join the committee so you can be a rational voice that will let people do what they want.  Normally the people that rule the HOAs are busy-body tyrants. 
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Luckily no real HOA here but sigh.  And the code enforcement I don't think is gonna be a real problem for me.  What I really want is a way out into an area where this sort of thing doesn't happen in the first place.

Saddly, I don't have the $130,000 (the asking price of the house next door to me is currently $58,000) I would need to get out of my current mortgage plus another $500,000 to buy a large parcel of agricultural land with a house in the area.  And with the economy as it is now, I don't see a bank lending me very much. 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Have you checked on eBay for land in Florida?  I've been watching the land on there (and I'm sure that's not the best place to actually buy anything, but it helps me get an idea of what land is going for in places I can't visit right now), and have seen a number of small parcels, in the one to two acre range, going for VERY low prices, like around $2,000.  It looks like undeveloped subdivisions -- hard to tell what kind of rules, regulations, codes, etc., they might have, but it would be something to check out.  If you do check any of them out, I'd be interesting in hearing your findings.  I doubt that we'll end up in Florida, but you never know!

Kathleen
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Oh, the joys of living near people who want you to be just like them...

Since you're stuck with staying where you are right now, you need to get proactive. And since busybodies are found in remote rural areas as well as in town, any strategies you develop and implement now will serve you in good stead later.

I concur with the idea of pestering the code folks with polite pleas for clarification. They have to respond to complaints, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are in sympathy with the complainants. At the least, I would request copies of the regs that outline which structures require a permit and which don't. And then call them regularly, asking if this is alright, or if that is alright...You want them to be able to say to any complainers "yes, we know about that, and Mr. Lynx is in compliance."

Are there other permies in your town/county? Find them, and see about getting a backyard chicken ordinance. Or see whether 2 or 3 hens are already permitted as pets. If there are no permies, see about joining a gardeners group, and be active enough that they know who you are. If you find their meetings boring - and you may - volunteer yourself as a presenter on a topic that interests you.

Do you share what you grow with your neighbors? Food, flowers, herbs - this can be a good investment on your part. If your immediate neighbors are benefiting from what you do, they will be likely to at least remain neutral.

Does the code allow small signs in your front yard? Consider posting a sign that says "this yard produces X pounds of fresh food a year" or "wild bird haven" or something else that conveys the worth of what you are doing. You will probably never win over the original complainer, but others in your neighborhood could well be curious about what the heck you're up to. Let them know.

Above all, make sure that you are scrupulous about keeping the visible parts of your yard neat. No tools lying around, plenty of flowers, no dead tomato vines, etc.

Hope this gets you thinking!

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3381
Location: woodland, washington
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this seems like a great opportunity to really annoy some obnoxious neighbors, but I tend to take a certain righteous pleasure in confrontation.

make friends with the code enforcement folks by being polite and responsive, find out exactly what the code actually says, and push it to the very limit while making your town lot a much more enjoyable and productive place to be.

many jurisdictions don't require permits for structures with footprints under 200 square feet so long as they aren't obviously dwellings.  in some places, that number is larger and it doesn't matter if somebody sleeps there.  200 square feet is a very useful size for a lot of things.  build several.

I don't think ditching town for the boonies is your only option, or even your best.  making it work in town is a noble calling that could ultimately serve as a great example for a lot of other people.
 
ronie dee
Posts: 619
Location: NW MO
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If possible it might be best to go through the permit process and build a tall privacy fence to seclude your projects from nosy neighbors... Then maybe also be as friendly as possible with neighbors and give them extra produce... Don;t give away any projects in conversations that might cause them to call zoning police. Also in conversing, let it be known that you would never turn anyone in to the zoning police - that you are live and let live as long as it don;t hurt me.

I built a house inside the city limits and had to jump through all kindza hoops for the zoning police , building inspectors, health dept. and any others that decided to get involved..  I was told over and over that i couldn't do this or that without a licensed pro or a union person etc... I always acted hurt and poor and asked if there was any way that i could do the work or get around it and almost always there was a way.  The building inspector let me draw diagrams of my plans and then made suggestions and let me change the drawings to get approved. Acting like you appreciate the persons suggestions and help gets you more suggestions and help.

The person that does the permits and the inspectors have a large amount of leeway in their decision making so being the kind polite and concerned person can get you a long ways.


I searched for a long time for some acreage without zoning and finally found some 10 miles from my house..the price was right and i bought the bare land.. I can build, plant, use and abuse the land any way i want (within state and federal law) without a permit or inspectors,,, I highly recommend that those who can - find land without zoning or restrictions - and then you can build what you want without having every little thing inspected.
 
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