My first blog post Do I need an Architect touched upon some of the factors that make building or remodeling a house overwhelming. Factors like budgeting, permitting, phasing, and construction are in themselves complex and multi-faceted. Today I am going to cover yet another confusing aspect of the design process – the non-conforming lot.

Many homeowners are justifiably surprised to learn that their property does not meet the city or town’s zoning code and that it is classified as “non-conforming”. A non-conforming designation can result from a house occupying too much of the lot (known as Floor Area Ratio), or having improper distance(s) from the street or neighboring lot.  While a non-conforming lot is not uncommon and is not necessarily problematic, it helps to have an architect to explain and work through the intricacies of working with local officials to make sure all of the requirements are accounted for and met.

Zoning is complicated; each town has its own set of by-laws that are written and enforced differently.  Some towns have extensive regulations and dozens of pages with diagrams, charts, and tables.  Others are the opposite and have vague and poorly recorded requirements. To make things more complicated; the application process (be it a for a Special Permit, Variance, or Certificate) varies from town to town.  Regardless, in all instances town officials require supporting documentation from a registered professional, whether it be an Architect, Engineer, or Land Surveyor.

It is important to engage the services of a Registered Architect to navigate the complexities of zoning regulations and to guide you through the process of building on a non-conforming lot.  The key to successfully bringing your design project to life is working with someone who has an understanding of the nuances of local zoning laws and who can marry vision with the demands of local vernacular.

Continue to follow my blog to learn about each specific permit as well as the various city and town boards that grant permits and certificates.

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