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Dealing with zoning stuff has been a major pain for me lately. I live in one of the "technically not Boston but really Boston" communities, and our zoning code is a mess. Something like 90% of the houses in the city were built before the current zoning setbacks were put in place (in the 50s, alongside parking minimums) so virtually every home is nonconforming. So any major work you do likely requires discretionary special permit from the zoning board of appeals, and it's not super clear what they'll grant or not.

I recently wanted to enclose my (upper level) back porch, replacing screens that had been blown out and raising the window sills to current code since I have a young child in the house. The code enforcement group were adamant that I couldn't do anything that was more protected from weather than the existing screens I was replacing: no solid windows, not even removable plexiglass. Because the porch was 6 feet from a garage, rather than 10. I wasn't expanding the house footprint, just trying to make a small part of my small half a house usable for a larger part of the New England Winter.

Of course, meanwhile from my back porch I can see the huge houses that are zoned for single-family only and require 10k sq ft lots, and they have plenty of room to renovate without running afoul of the code.....as long as they remain single family. Never mind that you could build a 4 plex of homes bigger than mine and still meet all other zoning obligations. Meanwhile I can't get from 1300 sq ft to 1380 by enclosing a back porch....

It's all very frustrating, as I completely agree that individual actions which impose costs on others are precisely why we need government to manage things. But there are huge costs of this limitation, too, and I feel absolutely terrible for the folks who don't have 2 software developer salaries allowing them to afford a tiny condo.

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