Reader asks: Town regulation unfair?


Editor:

This is a true story about my journey to have a deck installed on the back of my house. It starts with a meeting with a landscape company, requesting information on a paver patio that is routinely used in my neighborhood. Not happy with the color choices, I decided to go with a composite material platform deck (no railing, one step down to the ground) instead.

In researching composite materials, I found a light, almost ivory-colored decking and proceed to look for contractors who build with the material I liked. The decking company website recommended a contractor here in our area. I called and was given a project plan that I was happy with.

Next step — my HOA architectural committee application and approval for the plan. I asked for 12 feet for the patio to extend from a bumpout (my house is considered a villa/townhouse). The HOA would approve 10 feet out.

Then, the approved application went to the Town for their approval and building permit. We didn’t hear anything from the Town until I went and asked about the permit — denied because only 7.5 feet would be allowed.

I inquired about a variance and was told it would cost $1,800 and that there was a distinct possibility that it would not be approved, and the money would not be refunded. Asked why the cost was so high, the clerk explained that was because the town solicitor would have to get involved.

I then told the clerk that paver patios in my neighborhood routinely go 10 to 12 feet out from the house. I was told that was because the paver patio is not a permanent structure and my deck would be attached to the house — hence, permanent.

I had to go back to the HOA for them write an approval letter for the 7.5 feet. Not good enough. The Town needed an approval letter from the property management company as well.

When I contacted the property management company, I got an email from them stating the following: “There is no agreement with the Town, as the HOA Community Guidelines come before the Town’s. You are approved by the ARB to come out 10 feet from the bumpout.” I took that to mean that my contractor could indeed start to build the deck at 10 feet out — my bad.

So, he did just that, with the inspector from the Town inspecting and approving the depth of the footer holes and work proceeded. Next, the Town inspector had to approve the framing.

He came a week or so later and immediately called to say we had to cease and desist building and remove the new framing and go back to 7.5 feet.

This so-called permanent structure was removed in three or so hours to comply with the Town regulations.

The paver patios found everywhere in my neighborhood reach 10 to 12 feet routinely and many also have walls, benches, built-in fireplaces and firepits. They seem permanent to me.

So, my little deck is being completed as the Town requires. If I had wanted a porch to sit in my rocker and watch the grass grow, I would have been satisfied. I wanted a deck large enough to entertain family and friends. This journey seems a bit off. Much ado about nothing? Sour grapes? Get a life, lady? I just have to remember that life isn’t fair.

Terry Griswold
Millville