The Assumption of Knowledge: Comments and Answers…

Often people will believe they know something, when, in-fact, they really don’t. This applies in so many ways, to everyone and everyday life.

Setting aside the social impact of this concept, the following are things that we find so often true here in the Code Office.

More than likely, similar stories can be said from any Code Office.

COMMENT: We want to tear down and demolish that old building on our property that is way too close to the property line, but leave the foundation to prove it was there. That way we can save and protect our “grandfathered rights.”

ANSWER: There is no need to leave a portion of the old building there. There are several ways to prove that it was there. The best way is to show it on a survey prepared by a licensed Land Surveyor.

However, old or new pictures can do the same thing. Also, don’t forget, a demolition permit is required from the local Code Office.

Part of this process would include verification that the building is [was] there.

The inspection becomes part of the permanent record in the office.

C: We did not know a permit is required to remove a building. That’s just to generate more fees for your office isn’t it?

A: No, believe it or not, it’s not about the money. It is an attempt to be your advocate when it comes time for you to take advantage of any grandfathered rights that may exist.

The fee involved basically covers the town’s cost in doing this process. As this is a benefit directly to you, and usually not to the general public, there is a fee involved.

C: My neighbor is running a business, a commercial operation, at his property by renting out his house week after week. This is a very nice residential area. But every week there are different people there who are usually noisy and leave their garbage out on the wrong day, without any attempt of separation or recycling. The town should step in and stop this business!

A: Many years ago when the zoning ordinance was created, it was determined that the rental of a single-family home would not be considered a commercial operation.

Obviously, there are many houses in town… thousands.

Many of these are rented either seasonally, monthly, weekly and on occasion daily. However, by local law, this use does not constitute a violation.

Over the last ten or so years, there seems to be much more of this going on. The financial incentive to rent sometimes appears strong.

Some places are abused with what may appear as too aggressive of rental, but unless local law is changed, renting a house is legal.

C: The business next door is for sale and we are thinking of buying it. For years it has been a retail store. We want to fix the building up and make it into a hotel/motel with some units on the second floor. 

Since the property is in a commercial zoning district and it will still be commercial, we can just start remodeling immediately, right?

A: There are several things involved. One is how local law and the zoning ordinance apply. The other is how the NYS Building and Fire Code apply.

C: We were told since it’s still commercial, nothing was required.

A: Not really very accurate, although it may be okay, there are permits and approvals required.

First the local zoning.

A Conditional Use Permit is required from the Planning Board.

Although it is a potentially allowable use and is not specifically prohibited, they review the site plan, parking, signage or anything else, to determine the appropriateness of the new use for that particular area.

The second are the NYS Codes. Without getting into the structural, energy conservation and all the fire safety codes, any new residential use or occupancy shall have a sprinkler system installed.

Only one and two family dwellings are exempt.

C: Are you serious? That would cost us a fortune! It’s already a commercial building, it’s grandfathered!

A: It’s grandfathered for the same use, not a change in occupancy like from retail to residential. Please don’t have that typical “knee-jerk” reaction about costs.

Get professional estimates, talk to your insurance carrier and see what the long term costs are… you may be surprised.

Knowledge and understanding are powerful tools, if used the right way.

Also, there really isn’t any safe way to feed a bear…and yes, they will open car doors because they smell crumbs inside.

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