Building a Cottage: Shattered Dreams

Things have taken a turn for the worse regarding my cottage building plans. As I mentioned in the Red Tape article I just found out that there is a minimum building size required by the municipality. The building kit, drawings and materials that I purchased are for a cottage that is 225sqft smaller than the minimum required size. The only way to get an exception to the bylaw is to submit a minor variance application and attend a Committee of Adjustments hearing where the municipal committee members will vote on whether to accept or reject the application.

The process for a minor variance starts with filling out an application with your reason for the variance as well as information about the property that will be affected. Once the application is reviewed and deemed acceptable for discussion at the hearing you are notified by the municipality of the time of the hearing and are required to identify the affected property with a sign. Surrounding neighbours are also sent a notice to alert them to the proposed change. They have an opportunity to attend the hearing and/or submit letters in defence or opposition of the application. Once the hearing is underway you will be called in front of the committee members where you will have a chance to defend your application and answer any members’ questions. All discussions should be directed to the chair as a means of keeping things from getting personal. After you have made you points and answered questions the floor is open to anyone else in the audience that would like to voice their opinion. You have a chance for rebuttal and then if there is a motion to accept or reject there is a vote and the motion is passed.

I went through this entire process with a number of neighbours submitting letters opposed to the change because they felt my small building would devalue their properties. I had a number of valid arguments to defend my position, but at the end of the day the committee decided that the minimum building size bylaw was reasonable and that I should have to adhere to it. My application was rejected.

Now I am starting from the beginning again. I have to select a new floor plan and have the drawing re-drawn. I’m going to revisit my foundation options and determine my new costs. A ballpark estimate shows that I cannot afford this size of a cottage at this time, but I am obligated to purchase the materials and plans. The new schedule is to have the septic, grading, and foundation installed this year (October) and then build the cottage in the spring (May) next year. This should give me enough time to hurdle any obstacles and save enough money to pay for the cottage materials.

We will see how it goes, but for right now the dream is on hold.

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