Good news: I'm building a new garage. Bad news: you are going to have to endure my sorta political rant.
I am a real believer in personal freedom, and personal responsibility. If a person wants to do something with their own property, then they should do so while shouldering the costs and liabilities of their actions. If they choose to pay someone else (like insurance) to shoulder some of those liabilities, that is their business.
I've had a lot of experiences in the last year that have showed me how far off the reality is in this country. It was well put by a friend who said "you think America is a free country until you try to build something on your own property". We really have fallen in love with the idea of telling other people what to do with their own property and lives.
This became painfully apparent last fall when I had a disagreement with the city building inspector about where I could put a toilet in my bathroom. It had sat in one location for nearly a hundred years, but when I wanted to keep that location while replacing an ailing plumbing stack, used his "authority" to force it to a new location. Now if some accident had come upon me or a guest in my house due to the toilet being too close to the wall, who would bear that liability? It sure wouldn't be ol' Steve-o the inspector, or the city of Saline. It would be me, or my homeowner's insurance agency. So really what's happening here is that I'm being saved from myself by a non-invested benevolent dictator. This "protection" cost me a few thousand dollars in the end, and added no value.
Fast forward to this spring, and I'm trying to get permits to build a garage. The old garage was an 18x20, 2 feet from the property line. My neighbor's garage is also 2 feet from the property line. I submitted a plan as shown below and was told that due to local zoning code, not only did I need to be 3 feet from the property line, I needed to be 6 feet from the neighbor's garage. This meant my garage had to be moved another 2 feet from the line. Never mind that it's been there since at least 1940, fire code says it's too dangerous. Now you may say "no big deal, it's just 2 feet" Well, my lot is only 50ft wide, and it's my two feet. neither I, nor my neighbor felt the need for our garages to be further apart. But then I'm sure the city would be the first in line to pay the bill if they had allowed the original location and my garage caught the neighbor's garage on fire... Oh well, at least I can expect my property taxes to go down since that land isn't really mine. Right?
|A visual offense worthy of police action|
Fast forward again to this week, and we are having the garage demolished, so we can start construction of the new garage. Of course the Falcon can't stay in the driveway due to construction equipment, so I park it on the street. Then the police start visiting us. It seems a "concerned citizen" doesn't like the look of my car parked in front of my house. On the first visit (while I'm at work) they ask if it's registered, and my wife tells them it is. They inform us that it also needs to have liability insurance active if its on the street. So I activate the liability insurance. On the second visit (I'm at work, wife is away, concrete workers talk to the cops) they threaten to tow it, but the good guy concrete workers tell him it was in the driveway, and they just had to move it to work. When I call the police department to find out what's going on, the dispatcher insists officers haven't been to my house because she didn't call them in. With just a hint of exasperation in my voice, I say either officers have been to my house twice in two days or my wife is lying to me. Eventually they get the officer who made the visit on the phone with me, and I explain to him that it is registered with a Michigan authentic plate which never expires, and that I put liability back on it yesterday. In the course of our discussion I have to clarify this point four times. He then mentions that storing a covered car on the street may be a violation of city zoning code (yay zoning), and I tell him I'll need to see that specific code, because I am not aware of said code. He then speaks to the code enforcer (big fan of this guy too) who decides that since it's temporary, it's ok to stay. I thought that was the end of it. Hahahahahahaha. Guess who shows up again saturday morning? It's the boys in blue! It seems the neighborhood Gestapo has reported me yet again. This time I show him the documents for him to see with his own eyes. He says I'm ok to park in the street as long as it moves every 48 hours, but that he would prefer if I park it in the driveway so they stop getting calls. Needless to say, I'm ready to go to war with whoever is making the calls (I was ready to go to war after the first visit) but my wife, has some tempering influence on me. So here we are on saturday night at the time of writing with the car in the driveway. Come Monday however, it's back on the street and I'll be in no hurry to put it in the driveway again.
Deep breaths. Serenity now.
With that off my chest, take a look at my garage progress! To start with, I modeled my property in SketchUp so I could get an idea of what the new garage would look like. It's a 20x30, which should give a lot more room for working than the current 18x20, while also allowing Jen to park in the garage during the winter next to the Falcon.
|Site Plan, minus the massive maple trees|
I think there is a shortage of builders in Michigan (the housing market is booming) so finding contractors was not an easy job. Eventually I did, and got permits from the city government and we got started. First the old garage had to come down. As much as I want a new garage it was still hard to say goodbye to the old one. I just have a lot of respect for well built old buildings, but it was time. Carpenter ants had infested it, it was horribly musty, and the foundation was crumbling. I said goodbye to the old garage and when I came home from work it was gone.
Next, they dug the footings. The footings had to be 42" deep because Michigan is friggin' cold. We found an old clay drain pipe in the rear trench.
After the footing trench was inspected, the cement was poured, and they began to lay block on top of the cement.
|base course of block|
|second course, one more to go|
Once the final course of block is laid, backfill will be added and compacted and the slab will be poured on top. Once that is done, we wait for the materials to show up. That may take a while, but what matters is this: It's happening!
P.S. This is my son Max, who has joined us since the last post. He's pretty neat.
P.P.S. If you've made it this far and you want to know why I don't like zoning, read on. Recently I've been thinking a lot about zoning and realizing just how far reaching it's effects are. I think it's the reason for suburban sprawl and Megamalls. It's the reason for the decline of mom and pop shops. It creates hurdles that only large corporations can clear, and incentivizes bribes from developers. It creates the acres of unused blacktop outside every new business. It killed the viability of public transportation in America due to insufficient population density. It segregated communities that were on the path to voluntary desegregation. Most fundamentally of all, it voilates property rights (and no I don't care what the Supreme Court said in 1926, they were wrong)... I'm sure I've missed a few. Anyway, a few links.
Zoning impedes incremental growth
Zoning was created to segregate neighborhoods
Zoning knocks the rungs out of the economic ladder
Suburbs are freaking weird if you actually think about it
Develoment styles mandated by zoning are economically unsustainable
I apologize for the tangent, I'll try not to do it again. I just felt this was important enough to say something about.