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Observatory Placement and Neighbors

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#1 DeanAK

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 03:08 PM

Hi all, I have been planning on building an observatory in my back yard in a place that has the best views, especially to the south. (my property is surrounded by trees on neighbors' properties) Lately my Family has been having issues with one of my neighbors with regards to the property line and it seems to be getting fairly ugly. I'm concerned now as my mother posed the idea that the neighbor could feel that their privacy is being violated by the telescope and that they may plant trees in front of the observatory that, in time, will make the observatory all but useless. Before things started getting ugly I spoke with the neighbor about the building and he said that he wouldn't have a problem with it and that he thought it would be a cool thing. I just have a funny feeling that he would likely change his mind about it. I'm very scared and disheartened as I have been dreaming and planning the construction for close to a year now. My parents think I should build it in the front yard to avoid the issue but the amount of sky available would be severely reduced. Would any of you guys happen to have any advice or opinion as to what I should do?

#2 JMW

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 03:15 PM

I have giant Sequoia trees at the edge of my backyard neighbors yard on my west side. I don't have to worry about him planting anything taller. At about 5 degrees off the zenith I am into trees. I have a 3 hour window that I can image on objects. You have to work with what you have.

#3 mich_al

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 03:33 PM

Are trees the only issue with building there? If the worst happened and he did plant trees, how long would it be before they where actually in the way? I've been planting trees (hundreds) here to shield the neighbors for about 16 years and very few are progressing enough to shield anything.

#4 DeanAK

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 03:58 PM

I'm not sure how long it would take, I'm sure it would take quite a few years if he were to even do it. I just worry that in time it could be an issue. I don't suppose there would be anything that could stop him from doing that, would there?

#5 MJB87

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 04:11 PM

First thing I'd do is construct the observatory in such a way that the neighbor's home and property is shielded from view. Don't give him an excuse to fear for his privacy. Make it obvious from the structure of the design or your own (low) tree plantings that his privacy is safe.

Next, I woudn't worry too much about trees. You don't say how far your observatory would be from the neighbor's property line but even a modest distance gives you some working room once you figure the angles. It might take a decade or more for the trees to become an obstacle.

Third, research the property zoning and permitting requirements for setback of plantings. Some (not many) areas requires that large canopy trees be planted a certain distance (setback) from property lines. You should understand these rules and be prepared to enforce them if they apply.

In the end, I go back to the first point. Be a good neighbor and demonstrate that you are sensitive to privacy considerations -- without being asked.

Just my 2 cents.

Marty

#6 Aquarist

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 04:27 PM

Ask the neighbor what you can do to make him feel secure about his privacy. Adversarial action is not likely to work well. Ask your neighbor what you can do to insure there is not issue with property lines.

#7 Joel

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 04:48 PM

I have trees all over my property and I have about a 2 hour imaging window. I agree with the other poster in that you must deal with what you have.

Did the property line issue start with the observatory idea? I don't know how "ugly" it is now or why but neighbor feuds over property lines, bird feeders, cars, lawn mowers, dogs, cats....... can get pretty petty. Just make sure you have everything researched out so as to not give him a reason to give you a problem.

As far as privacy concerns, I remember when I built my observatory, later my neighbor said his wife worried about me using a telescope at night. Although there was no way that my observatory could see their windows, he just said she was the paranoid type about that type of stuff and always closed the drapes tight anyway. I once had a telescope out on my patio and I had some guys doing some work at the house and their first comment was about peeping at the neighbors. People see a telescope and think that's what it's used for. I wonder how many scopes are sold on Ebay because they didn't know they flipped the object in the view, after they tried standing on their head to peep at their neighbor.

#8 MJB87

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 04:58 PM

Of course, the other tact is to be a real pain and encourage him to plant his trees right up against the property line. As close as possible. Then, when the tree expands and the roots cross over into your property, drive long copper nails into them.

Actually, I'm just joking. That is not a good idea.

#9 TCW

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 05:03 PM

A survey could put to rest the PL issue.

#10 DeanAK

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 06:02 PM

The property line issue didn't invoke the observatory. It actually grew slowly, last year my father built a fenced in area for my dog that both he and the neighbor thought was on the property line. Well apparently it wasn't and after some disagreements they neighbor has decided to only communicate with us via certified letters. It's a real shame as I always liked him.
We asked him if he wanted to go in on halves for a surveyor but he declined saying that he already drew a string along the property posts. This string touches the ground at a few places and is not very straight but he is adamant that it is correct.
As a result of this my plan is to make sure to build the observatory at least six feet from his proposed line.

#11 TCW

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 07:06 PM

Most jurisdictions require a greater setback than 6'. You may want to check with the building dept. Your nasty neighbor might just wait until you have the observatory built and then call to turn you in!

#12 Joel

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 07:41 PM

You know in a situation like this before I made a sizable investment in an observatory I would pay for a survey myself. I think they cost about $300 which is small in relation to an observatory. That way you know for sure and have legal ground to stand on should he dispute it. After you get it surveyed you may find out his string and fence posts are on your land but at least the issue would be settled.

#13 DeanAK

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 08:28 PM

More than 6'? I'll make sure to check on that, thanks.
I called a local company about a property line survey and they quoted me $1500. I think I'll call around and see if I can find better.

#14 TCW

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 08:46 PM

More than 6'? I'll make sure to check on that, thanks.
I called a local company about a property line survey and they quoted me $1500. I think I'll call around and see if I can find better.


That is high and they probably quoted you for an entire days work. I paid less than that to survey a property line a quarter of a mile long plus other work and they had to do a good bit of ground work first. I also got a map and some elevations.

#15 Aquarist

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 08:47 PM

Given the cost of an observatory and the immovability of concrete piers, a survey would be a worthwhile investment. When I did mine there were all sorts of zoning restrictions and set backs. We had inspectors sign off before we did anything at all.

#16 Geo31

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 10:26 PM

As someone in the process of purchasing property to build a house and eventually an observatory, some of these issues are fresh for me.

On of the first things you want to find, if your county has them on-line is a "plat" for your block (assuming it's a registered plat). In all likelihood, the plat will specify the required set-backs. Of course, without a survey, you don't know what you're setting back from, so you'll need to allow for some margin of error.

If you have an HOA or POA, you'll want to know what the rules are for "outbuildings."

For sure, you cannot force your neighbor to change his or her behavior, unless they are acting illegally, and then it may require legal action, so being on the very best terms you can possibly be with your neighbor is your best bet.

I almost bought a property where the next door neighbor put birght, clear bulb, lantern lights (like to the side of garage doors) on the side of the doors to their outbuilding (as well as some spotlight). They turn the bloody lights on at night! I just happened to be out in the development as it started to get dark and saw it by chance (thank God). What kind of whacko lights up their outbuilding like the Eiffel Tower??

Good luck. Try to be on good terms with your neighbor. When you build, invite him over and show him (them) some cool stuff. They may appreciate what you're doing and decide to be helpful.

#17 n1wvet

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:30 AM

I am on the Design Review Board for my HOA. We had a recent case where one member applied to build a detached two car garage on his property. Plans were approved, permits secured, and construction started. His neighbor pointed out the garage was being built on his property. Neighbor was right and construction was halted. Submitted plans included a copy of the plat, but the property was not surveyed and therefore there was no reference point for where the lot lines were. So even with correct paperwork, you still need those iron stakes in the ground to show the lot lines. Save yourself some worry and get a survey done. At least this will eliminate one unknown in the Obs build.

#18 BrooksObs

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 07:49 AM

A couple of pointers from a hobbyist who has built several observatories on his property over the course of 45 years...

First, as others have suggested, spend the money needed for an official survey of your property line(s), you'll never regret it.

Secondly, check with the local Zoning Board about construction set-back regulations. Most towns require at least 10'; mine requires 20' as the minimum. While you are at it, check about the need for any construction permits and inspections. Requirements vary very widely across the country.

Third, if at all possible build your observatory well away from the property line (unless the size of your yard is very limited). It is a great mistake to place an observatory anywhere near your property line since you then have no control over what the neighbors might plant or build right adjacent to it in the future. In particular, although fir trees tend to be slow growing there are tree types used for borders that can grow many feet per year to create "privacy" walls. Likewise, don't overlook the possibility of the neighbor's house changing hands over time. I've gone through 3 sets of new neighbors on nearly all sides of my property over the years! No matter how good current relations might be with the neighbors the next family could be light-crazies! Give yourself plenty of wiggle room in your placement of the observatory.

BrooksObs

#19 DeanAK

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:57 PM

Regarding permits, I've found that as long as the building is smaller than 200 sq ft I don't need a permit. The electrical will need to be inspected though.

Thanks for the info, I'll try and contact the zoning board today while I shop surveyors.

This neighbor is a light-crazer, every outdoor light is on at night, and when they're away they leave every light in the house on.

#20 jazle

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 03:26 PM

Regarding permits, I've found that as long as the building is smaller than 200 sq ft I don't need a permit. The electrical will need to be inspected though.

You might want to get that in writing from the building department. I thought the same thing. Even got a permit for the electrical on the non-permitted building (made the sq.ft. cut as well). After all, I figured what do they do when someone wants to add lighting to a 50-year-old barn that wasn't built to modern code?

Inspector showed up for the first electrical inspection and said that was all it took for the entire building to need a permit. Ended up spending about $1000 for engineering analysis and building permit fees. And I never got a $100 credit for the original electrical permit even though it was part of the full building permit :p

And I asked about the barn situation since there are plenty in my county. Apparently they do need building permits as well if they wire in permanent electrical! But that they are very lenient in the inspection process for the rest of the building. Or, they "wire" the building in a way that isn't permanent. Like running a panel and outlet to a "nearby" pole and then plugging the barn in.

#21 brave_ulysses

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 07:14 PM

check on a price for "setting the pins" for a fence from your surveyors. 4 pins on an acre cost ~$200 a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away (10 years in north texas)....






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