Sometimes, zoning hearing board meetings can be the most important things happening in a township. A big-budget meeting can spell major change for community hub, new restaurants and shops in a business district, or even a new look for an entire area.
West Chester’s Monday night zoning meeting was not one of those meetings. That is, unless you are Ann or Geoff Grosso.
The Grossos got approval from the zoning hearing board to build a roofed-in front porch and a back deck at their Minor Street home on Monday.
The decision was not contested; the board voted unanimously to approve the requested exceptions.
“We can’t really use our back yard right now,” Geoff said at the meeting. “It would be great to actually be able to use the yard.”
So why should you care? Because the Grosso’s application was an excellent example of how to get a change made at your own home. Here’s how they did it, and here’s how you should do it, too, if you want to make a change to your house.
In general, successful zoning applications, like the Grosso’s, do the following things:
1) Explain the Hardship
Or, in other words, explain how the existing zoning code is working against you. In the case of the Grosso’s they wanted to put in a back and front porch that would interfere with the property setback relief. For them to better utilize their backyard, which has an unusual narrowness and slope, according to their application, they would have to build in a way that would go a little further than what the code allows.
2) Use the Least Intrusive Solution
The Grossos submitted a plan that wouldn’t be too big or too gaudy, according to the board's approval. It wouldn’t, in the board’s view, interfere with any of their neighbors. Plans that get approved do the least impact to the places around them. And, with that in mind, another thing to keep in mind is…
3) Don’t Try to Alter the Character of the Neighborhood
For this project, the Grosso’s were asking to put in a small front porch and back deck in a neighborhood where such things are commonplace, according to their testimony. By trying to be in line with what already exists in the area, the application is easier to approve.
Of course, there is a lot more to a zoning application than what’s written above and approval is always the purview of the zoning hearing board, which is why projects like these are best left to professionals. That said, keeping these steps in mind could never hurt an application.