After you have decided to take on a project whether it is an addition or a new house, what is one of the first things you need to help guide you in your decisions? The survey! What’s a survey and how do I get one? The type of survey you will need is a boundary survey that includes all current improvements and the actual boundary lines of your property. The survey graphically maps out all of the features of the property in question. It can include fences, driveways, walks, easements, utilities and structures on the property as it exists. In New Jersey, this service must be performed by a licensed Professional Land Surveyor. According to the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors to obtain a license an individual must have a four-year college degree in surveying, three years or more of practical experience, and pass a 16 hour written examination administered by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Once licensed, the Professional Land Surveyor must obtain 24 hours of continuing education credits every two years to maintain active status. Those are some serious qualifications! I think this justifies the cost which can be in the range of $1,500.00.
Your architect will use this drawing prepared by the Land Surveyor to determine what can and cannot be done on your property without seeking a variance. Your architect will look up your property’s zone and the corresponding restrictions unique to that zone within your community. Townships typically have a zoning schedule indicating various restrictions such as; front/rear/side yard setbacks, building height, minimum lot size, required frontage, allowable building coverage, impervious coverage and the list goes on depending on each communities standards. With this information the architect can set your workable footprint and work within those limits to create your addition or new home. Many people always think it’s no problem to just put a second floor on their house, but zoning-wise that is not necessarily the case. Your existing home could be non-conforming thus you would need to seek a variance to continue with that not conformity upwards.
If people have the time and don’t mind taking the gamble they can go forward with a design that does not conform to the zoning restrictions. It’s just a costlier and more time consuming process until you stick your shovel in the ground. Locally, I was told they rarely (like never) deny an applicant of a request. But you still need to go through the entire process, which includes notifying your neighbors (hopefully you don’t have any neighbors that dislike you), pay miscellaneous fees, submit proper documents, prepare construction drawings and plea your case to the Zoning Board of Adjustments.
Whether you decide to conform or not you need that survey completed to know what you are getting yourself into. So before you get started with your next project make sure you have a current survey of your property or dig into your files and look for an old one and see if it will do the trick.