Your neighborhood probably is subject to legal constraints. Before you begin the design phase of your addition project, be sure to check with city and county offices to see what kinds of restrictions affect your property. Now is a good time to reread the fine print in your deed and abstract for the property.
The legally buildable portion of your lot doesn't stretch to the lot lines; instead, it occupies a "bubble" of space that sits several feet within the lines on all sides. Thus, your buildable area is subject to a front setback, a rear setback, and two side setbacks. The purpose of these inner boundaries is twofold: to ensure adequate open space between neighboring structures for fire-safety reasons, and to maintain a uniform streetscape and therefore establish and maintain the street's basic sense of place. On some lots, the bubble is further reduced by easements. Easements preserve strips of open space on private property to provide occasional access for nonprivate purposes. An example is an easement along one side of a lot that abuts a utility trunk line at the rear; the easement ensures legal access from the street for servicing or repairing the trunk line. Because easements often fall inside setback lines, it's important to know if any are in force on your property before you break ground. If your addition should encroach on an easement, you would have to demolish the illegal portion of the structure, which may mean reconfiguring the entire project.
Continued on page 2: Height Restrictions