Zoning Laws Thwart Post-Sandy Rebuilding

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker John Boehner.” So said New Jersey guv Chris Christie after Republicans postponed a vote on a pork-laden Hurricane Sandy recovery bill earlier this month.

It turns out, however, that House Republicans may not be solely to blame for post-Sandy misery. Via The Wall Street Journal, homeowner Roger Kimball relates his family’s experience with the local zoning board:

We'd had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anything—wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcases—touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in.

Yet it wasn't until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase "building permit" first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. "What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?"

Of course.

Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house "up to code," which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.

Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can't raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that?

There were other surprises. A woman in our neighborhood has two adjoining properties, with a house and a cottage. She rents the house and lives in the cottage. For 29 years she has paid taxes on both. The cottage was severely damaged but she can't tear it down and rebuild because Zoning says the plots are not zoned for two structures, never mind that for 29 years two property-tax payments were gladly accepted.

 Do click through and read the whole article, which lays into FEMA as well.  

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Just find a non-unionized contractor, preferably one who hates the government and wants to be paid in cash only, and do what needs to be done, and don't FN tell the government or ask permission.

    That's what we did anyhow, when we had to make some home repairs.

  • Invisible Finger||

    You can bet that in any Sandy-affected community the inspectors are patrolling the areas for any un-permitted work.

  • John||

    And don't think for a moment a union contractor who notices won't turn you in.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Tell me again why I should think highly of that fat authoritarian blowhard Christie.

  • ||

    Remember, folks, you don't own your property, you rent it from the government, and you can't make changes to it unless they give you permission. The instant there are property taxes and building permits, you no longer own your property. Full stop.

  • some guy||

    It's worse than that. Given the state of civil forfeiture you don't own any of your property anywhere in the country.

  • ||

    Prove you weren't going to do something illegal with that money and that car, guy! Prove it!

  • nicole||

    To his credit, he actually figured out exactly that, and then had it published in the WSJ, so that's kind of awesome.

    I used to think that our house was, you know, our house. The bureaucrats have taught me otherwise.
  • ||

    Buying a house is one of the fastest ways to learn that you don't own it. Pay your rent money or lose it. Fuck you, pay them.

  • OldMexican||

    Zoning Laws Thwart Post-Sandy Rebuilding


    Noooooo! Really?

    Kafka would have liked the zoning folks.


    I think he would've found them to be loony radicals.

    The cottage was severely damaged but she can't tear it down and rebuild because Zoning says the plots are not zoned for two structures[...]


    You know what? FUCK YOU, people of New Jersey. You were oh-so-happy with local ordinances that kept the "undesirables" out, now it's time for YOU to pay the piper.

    You wanted to play Collectivist? Eat shit and die, zonistas.

  • John||

    That is right Old Mexican. These people are getting the government they deserve. Few places outside of California and New York has voted consistently as stupid as New Jersey. These dumb fucks elected Jon Corzine governor for God's sake and Robert Tortecelli to the Senate. They can all wallow in the shit hole they have created for all I care.

  • ||

    John, you know it, I know it, everyone here knows it. They, however, will never put two and two together and realize the CAUSE of their pain, because they are just too stupid to understand cause and effect. Logic and reason escape them. If this was not the case, they never would have voted for the policies that have placed them in their current situation as they were completely foreseeable.

    They will instead blame others for their failings.

    I'm with you... Fuck em.

  • Raston Bot||

    yeah, fuck them as they laugh their asses off to the bank with a $51 billion bailout courtesy of all the other representatives in the country.

  • Tonio||

    Uh, guys, RTFA. The house is in Connecticut, so this has nothing to do with Gov. Christie of NJ.

    Which is not to stick up for Christie, but this particular incident has nothing to do with him.

  • Sevo||

    “There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: The House majority and their speaker John Boehner.” So said New Jersey guv Chris Christie"

    Uh, really?
    "For many homeowners already fighting to stay in their homes after the recession and mortgage crisis, Superstorm Sandy was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
    [whining, poor people, not a word about flood insurance, and then]
    The Ortiz's have refinanced their modest house three times, their original loan was through Countrywide, now Bank of America, which recently settled a federal lawsuit accusing the lender of widespread mortgage fraud which led to the housing crisis.
    "They can't afford it anymore because they're paying half a million dollar mortgage on a house that's only worth $145,000," Joy Ortiz said."
    http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/st.....id=8951309

    If that's the best the professional whiners can find, whatever sympathy I had is long gone.

  • John||

    If Joy's mortgage was $145K and her house was worth a million, she wouldn't be sharing any of that money with me. So fuck her that her gambling on the housing market didn't turn out so well.

  • Seamus||

    The fact that the house has dropped in value far below how much it's mortgaged for has nothing to do with their ability to afford it. What affects their ability to afford it is their income, and the demands on that income. The fluctuations in value of their house do not affect either their income or their mortgage payments.

  • BuSab Agent||

    ^this^. I couldn't give a damn what my house is "worth", because I don't plan on selling it--if I planned to move right away I would have never bought it in the first place. I could afford the payments when I bought it and what do you know I still can.

  • Sevo||

    Seamus| 1.15.13 @ 4:51PM |#
    "The fact that the house has dropped in value far below how much it's mortgaged for has nothing to do with their ability to afford it. What affects their ability to afford it is their income, and the demands on that income"

    So they don't have a 'debt problem'? Just a 'revenue problem'?
    Sorry, that bit of BS goes nowhere. There is no house in NJ that was worth $500K and is now worth $140K; they refied as if it was worth that and as if they could afford to pay that.
    Fail.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    They wanted pay stubs. My wife works as a freelance writer and editor. She doesn't get a pay stub. Which apparently makes her a nonperson to this government agency.

    The war on the self-employed gathers speed.

  • SugarFree||

    [Nelson Muntz laugh]

  • Zeb||

    I can't imagine what it must be like to try to do anything in a place like that. I guess you are a big fucking chump if you buy any real estate there. I've been doing some major work on my house (basically completely rebuilding 80% of it), and I have an extremely hands off building inspector in my town (he's probably spent a total of 10 minutes on the "inspections"), yet all the code and zoning bullshit still drives me nuts. If I lived in New Jersey... Never mind, the premise is too absurd.

  • ||

    "I have an extremely hands off building inspector in my town"

    You're simply lucky. Odds are that in your same town you could have a real ballbuster without changing the regs an ounce.

    It always amazes me when people are surprised by the hassle of P&Z. Really? Because P&Z dominates almost every news article in the paper related to construction/improvements/commercial development.

    FUCKING PAY ATTENTION

    And then, under no circumstances, ever call the fucking building inspector. Fuck them. Only if it's external and it's so obvious that only a dead squirrel would fail to see it.

  • Zeb||

    Lucky to some extent. But there are also advantages to living in a town small enough that they can't justify a full time code enforcement guy. And in a state (NH) where code enforcement is entirely up to the town. I chose to live where I do for a reason. I can also build as many outbuildings of less than 200 sf as I want without any permits. And I'd never bother for anything that is not obvious from the street. But I had to build new roofs, dig a new foundation and get a new electrical service, so there was no avoiding it.

  • Sevo||

    BTW, if you click through to the comments, there's some sleaze-bag defending the Zonistas with words eerily similar to shithead's comments here:
    'If the Zoning board is screwed up, you need to elect a new city council'...
    'You don't know the building codes'...

  • The Late P Brooks||

    As I read it, this little tragedy is actually playing out in CT. If this guy is responsible for saddling us with Lieberman and Blumenthal, fuck him.

  • Tonio||

    Yep. NJ is mentioned in the article, but it's clearly stated that the house is in CT.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    there's some sleaze-bag defending the Zonistas

    If the town cannot dictate uniform roof pitch, driveway slope and window size, then PIGFARMZ111!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    this has nothing to do with Gov. Christie of NJ.

    Except for the fat fuck's prominently featured quote blaming the Rethuglitards for not shoveling free money to his constituents, so he can take credit for "feeling their pain".

  • wingnutx||

    This is why I do my own work whenever possible.

  • waaminn||

    Sounds like a solid plan to me dude. Wow.

    www.make-anon.tk

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement