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Call Before You Build

Posted on Sunday, November 24, 2013

Whether you are building a deck, erecting a shed or installing a fence, any structure added to your home or standing alone requires a building permit. Failure to obtain a building permit can have devastating results. If your deck, shed or fence violates municipal zoning regulations or is not built in accordance with applicable building codes, you could receive a stop work order, or worse, be required to remove an already completed project. Finally, if you attempt to sell your real estate and the required permits are not in place, the sale may be stalled or lost.  

            A building permit application requires a sign off from the zoning department to ensure that the proposed deck, shed or fence is in compliance with the municipal zoning regulations. Virtually all municipal zoning regulations contain provisions that permit accessory structures such as decks, sheds and fences on residential properties. The zoning regulations regarding such structures will also include provisions limiting the size, height and location of the accessory structures. For example, most municipal zoning regulations have a minimum set back areas from front, side and rear lot lines which will dictate how close to your property line an accessory structure can be built.

            If your proposed deck, shed or fence does not comply with the municipality’s zoning regulations, you can request a waiver or variance of the specific zoning regulation. To obtain a variance of the zoning regulations, you must file an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Your application will be reviewed by the zoning staff and various municipal agencies. A public hearing will be held, at which time you will be required to present your application. Connecticut General Statutes require that a hardship and an exceptional difficulty in complying with the required regulation exists with respect to your application in order for the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant your requested variance. The Zoning Board of Appeals is made up of five commissioners and an affirmative vote of four out of the five is required for a grant of a variance.  A hardship is a legal term which is rather complex. If you need a variance to build your deck, shed or fence, it is recommended that you hire an attorney who specializes in land use law to file your application and present it to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

            Please feel free to call or email me to discuss your proposed improvements or other land use issues you may have.

Diane M. Lord, Esq.
Willinger, Willinger & Bucci, P.C.
855 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604


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