Your local city or county authority might have the power to dictate what your new home can look like. Many areas around the country have ordinances that specify what features a home must have. Some include height restrictions, placement and access of the garage, the minimum setback distances, but some restrictions are even more specific.
It is not unusual for new homes in existing neighborhoods to be required to generally match the scale, color and architectural style of the homes around it. Even existing homes may be required to get approval before things like the color of the front door can be changed.
This is all due to zoning regulations. The first comprehensive zoning ordinance was adopted by New York City back in 1916. Over the years zoning ordinances have been used to control development and help craft an area's usage as well as its visual appeal.
Most of the time zoning ordinances are a good thing. Sometimes people feel the rules go a bit too far. There are many rules that on the surface sound trivial but have a strong foundation in improving or maintaining the quality of life in an area. The problem is, many rules regulate what most of us would consider a matter of taste or style.
When you are shopping for a home plan, especially if you plan on building within a gated community, you need to read up on the community's deed restrictions as well as local regulations and codes. Many times customers will purchase a house plan only to find that it is too tall. Sometimes we are able to make modifications to the plan to get it to comply with height restrictions, but not always.
Do Regulations Hinder or Help Home Design?
If you have ever spent time in a home constructed in the 1800s you’ll appreciate regulations a bit more. Homes built in that time had very little regulations and concerns with safety. For example, stair treads were often very small and stair cases very steep. Safety issues, like making sure there are adequate exits from every room, were just not a concern back then.
It all comes down to attitude and how you approach design. If you have the mind set that regulations and ordinances are a hindrance and a bad thing, then your designs will be very static. On the other hand, if you embrace the regulations and view them as design challenges, your designs will be more organic and welcoming.
We actually embrace many of the current trends and community regulations. Traditional neighborhood designs and narrow lot homes, when used correctly, can make for beautiful, functional and very energy efficient communities. There is no reason design has to be at odds with zoning regulations and local ordinances.
Before you purchase your home plan, make sure you have checked with your local community authorities and homeowner's association. Make sure you understand what is allowed and what the restrictions are. Remember that if you have your heart set on a house plan that doesn’t meet your local regulations we might be able to help. Our modification service can review the regulations, setbacks and design requirements and let you know if we can make your favorite plan work in your area.