Dave and Linda decided they wanted to improve their home in Franklin County by adding a parking pad and widening their driveway. They live in an area that does not have curbs, sidewalks or street lighting. They toured the neighborhood to get some ideas of what other neighbors had done to improve their driveways. They found a neighbor who had recently put in a driveway which was exactly what they wanted. Dave and Linda contacted the contractor who had installed the neighbor’s driveway and hired him to do the work. The contract required the Contractor to get any permits which were needed. The Contractor assured Dave and Linda that there should be no problem. Shortly thereafter, the Contactor applied for a permit through the Township Zoning Department and installed the driveway as planned. Upon completion, the Township building inspector visited the job site and approved the work. Dave and Linda were happy with their new driveway!

However, shortly thereafter, Dave and Linda received a Notice of Zoning violation from the County detailing three violations of County zoning regulations. It seems nine months earlier, the County Commissioners had passed new regulations to address the width of driveways in Franklin County based on an issue in another Township. The Commissioners imposed this standard across the County!!!

Dave and Linda took their case to the Franklin County Board of Zoning Appeals to seek a variance. However, after a review of the case, the Board held that even though Dave and Linda acted in good faith, thought they were following the correct permitting process, were not advised by the Township Zoning that County approval was required, and relied on a Contractor who had previously installed a similar driveway in the same neighborhood, the Board would not allow a variance. Dave and Linda are now faced with the dilemma of removing their new driveway or facing a criminal charge for a zoning violation.

What is the lesson here?

Despite good faith actions and experienced Contractor advice, this couple ran into problems. A simple reminder from the Township Zoning Department that County approval needed to be obtained would have eliminated the problem. However, there is no “requirement” that the Township provide additional help. Be aware that for whatever improvements you wish to make, there may be multiple authorities who must approve permits. In many communities you may need approval from the City, the Homeowner’s association AND there may be an association WITHIN the Homeowner’s association. Failure to obtain the proper permitting can result in very expensive problems!

If you are not sure of who you need to approve your project, give us a call and we will be happy to provide guidance!