We left off 2010 getting shut down on our yard work, AGAIN. Our neighbor appealed our permits, which meant the zoning board would have to rule on them. Our neighbor was pissed that we wanted to tear out our half of the asphalt road. He didn’t want us to tear it out because he wanted to continue to drive on it, which he felt he was entitled to do. If you recall, when we bought the house, hubby and I thought having the road was going to be cool. We never imagined tearing it out. If our neighbor had been even a little bit nice to share a driveway with (because even though we each owned half the road, it was really like sharing a driveway) we never would have considered taking it out. But with him constantly parking on our half the road, blocking our exit, and random people parking there to go hiking in the woods, we decided it was worth the money to take out the road. Oh, what really sealed the deal was the fact that we had to pay for a topographic survey and get permits just for the dirt we moved on our property. I figured if we were spending the money on the permits/survey we might as well throw in the road removal. So 2011 rolled out like this…
Fought my neighbor at a zoning board meeting (and won)
Hubby and I had to go to 3 zoning board meetings before our neighbor and his lawyer finally showed up in March. I had written a very strongly worded letter to the board after the second time he stood us up. His big claim was that he didn’t have room to drive out of his driveway. He wanted access to our property so he could drive on it. But the zoning board doesn’t have the authority to give him that right anyway. It was taking so long, that I actually had work started before the 3rd meeting, because I had all the permits. Well, the day my crew showed up to start the demolition, my neighbor went completely out of his mind crazy. He called the police, who were not too thrilled with him at this point. He had called the police on us a few times already, claiming we were blocking his driveway, when my husband parked his car on OUR half of the road. Real peach, this guy. Anyway, the assistant zoning officer shows up with a stop work order, which I was told days later by the zoning officer was bogus and I should have ignored. No, really. True story. It cost me $15oo to send my crew home that day. Pain in my ass. I still lose sleep over it, years later. They managed to saw cut down the middle of the asphalt road and remove the 100+ feet of concrete curb and the old driveway apron before they got shut down. It looked so much better already! This is a before shot, so you can see all the concrete.See, now it’s all gone. You can also see the start of my garbage can/AC camouflage going up next to the house.You see where the rock/dirt/weeds are? That is where the new driveway will be. They got all the concrete out before we got shut down. There was a curb running down our property about 140 feet and a concrete driveway apron between the heaps of dirt.
When my neighbor finally did show up to a zoning board meeting, the board laughed at him. And his lawyer. Neighbor had such a ridiculous outburst, the board threatened to call the police on him. They upheld the validity of our permits and we were able to continue work. And man, was there a lot of work to do.
Defended myself in NJ Superior Court against my neighbor (and won)
A week after my neighbor’s appeal was denied by the Twp Zoning Board, hubby and I received our first summons. That was April. Jerk neighbor filed a lawsuit against us in Superior Court of NJ, claiming he was entitled to “an implied easement of necessity.” I had no idea what that meant at the time! None of my college degrees are in law. But with the power of the Internet at my fingertips, I played lawyer all summer long and finally won the court case in November 2011. It was a scary time and I lost a lot of sleep over it, but we kept working on the yard during the whole process.
I had my crew come back and finish taking out the asphalt road and old driveway. My advice: Be your own general contractor and hire subcontractors for specific jobs. Get several estimates. Ask neighbors and friends for recommendations, but also search on Craigslist. I had asphalt/concrete guys quote me $4,000 – $7,500 to REMOVE the road and driveway. I contemplated trying to do it myself. Then I called a pool demolition guy, whose ad I saw on Craigslist. He had all the right equipment and manpower for the job and since he charged by the day, it would be $1,500. It was an additional $250 for the saw cut down the middle of the road. (And of course I had to pay the flipping $1,500 twice, but that wasn’t his fault.) I also paid him for fill dirt, 3 boulders, to remove a tree and basketball hoop, and he found me a guy to install the new concrete apron for my driveway and reconfigure the curb line. Just so you know, messing with the curb is a separate municipal matter, at least in my town. The township owns the curb, so I needed a road opening permit for that and the work needed to be inspected before and after the concrete was poured. I handled the inspections myself.
The kids thought it was so cool to have the big machines in our yard. And not just my kids. All the neighborhood kids. And the dads. Are you my mother? Haha! I turned my head for a minute and that tree right there was gone.This is why I paid for the saw cut. Nice crisp line. This is after they added some fill dirt. Everything that you will see changing from this flat desolate point on, was done by hand. My hands. With a shovel and wheelbarrow. I had them take out the driveway too, because the whole thing needed to be re-graded before it could be re-paved. I had yet to find someone to do the paving.I love that Green Giant Arborvitae at the corner of the house. I planted it in fall ’09, it made it through all this renovation, and is about 12 feet tall now.I moved these freaking rocks like a million times. I gathered them from the roadway before the asphalt was removed and piled them here. One by one. They’ve since been moved several more times. But every one of those rocks has been put to use somewhere in the yard. Free is free! You see the difference between getting a saw cut and just chopping away at the asphalt? Yeah.The yard sat like this for two months. I had been talking to two asphalt guys prior to the demolition, but one had a crazy high estimate and the other kept telling me I wasn’t ready, whatever that meant. There was also the dilemma of which work to do first, pave the driveway in asphalt or replace the concrete apron in front of the garage. I wanted the asphalt to be in a perfect horseshoe and the rest of the area between the driveway and the porch/garage to be stamped concrete. It wasn’t always easy to convey my vision to contractors, even with sketches and a proposed survey. I did a lot of drawing in the dirt and chalking on the asphalt. There was no clear consensus about which should be done first. I ended up doing the asphalt first because it was more important to have a functional driveway than a good looking entrance. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see that. I hired Garden State Paving and I’m very happy I went with them. Another FYI – neither the demo company nor the paving company took a single penny from me until the job was done. No deposit. No hassle.
I took this picture for my court case. Neighbor claims he no longer has room to access his driveway. Um, the mailman drives his truck down your driveway, makes a k-turn and comes back out. I think you’ve got enough room dude. And if not, I don’t care. I couldn’t wait to plant some bamboo! That’s the little plants between the boulders. It’s clumping bamboo, so don’t worry about it being invasive. Each one of those little freaking things was $55. Worst investment I’ve made on the yard. 3 years later and they’re still not even 3 feet tall. It will take them forever to get to the full 14 feet. I should have planted photinia. Live and learn.