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Thread: Building a ramp, setbacks, etc.

  1. #1

    Building a ramp, setbacks, etc.

    Long time no post.

    We are going to be building a chair ramp, and I have a C5/6 injury and I am in a manual chair so slope is an issue for me.

    A city official said that the ramp is not supposed to be built in the "setback" area which here is 15 feet from the property line. (At one point he said that it actually says that you can only build 10 feet away from the house, which is worse than the setback.)
    Later he also said something about it having to be 5 feet back from the sidewalk no matter what.

    My city uses the International Building Code, 2018 edition as its building code. I'm going to try looking that up to see if contains anything regarding ramp placement.

    We are trying to make this have the most gentle slope possible so that I can have the best chance of navigating it myself. (Especially in regards to getting out of the house and down the ramp in case of emergencies.)

    My questions are as follows...

    Does the setback rule apply to a ramp at a person's residence?

    Does the ADA cover the placement of ramps at a person's home?
    (i.e. Can the ramp be a few feet from and parallel to the sidewalk if that gives us the best position and the most gentle slope?)

    Is there a special rule covering the distance something can be from the sidewalk, and does the ADA allow something closer if it is an chair ramp?

    Are there any other questions that I should ask the city officials?

    I'm going to ask more questions, but I don't think that they are necessarily well versed on the ADA. (The official mentioned that he built a deck that was in the setback and someone reported it, so he had to remove it. He compared that to the situation if we build the ramp in the setback. I'm kind of thinking that ramps and decks might be treated differently.)

    Thank you so much for any information you can share regarding this issue! Melissa
    Hopefully this isn't something that works better as an "ask for forgiveness later" deal because the official lives nearby and will notice if the ramp starts being built in the plan he didn't like.
    Life is a lesson you learn when you're through.

  2. #2
    In most jurisdictions there's a lot of leeway given to residential access situations. That often includes setbacks, ramp rise/run, etc. I would just ask the building inspector, he/she should be able to guide you. If there are stringent requirements you can also go through the variance process. A vertical platform lift is another option.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Baldwinsville, N.Y.
    You can apply for a variance for setbacks. Many areas would allow a ramp within 5' of the line. I can't believe they are giving you a hard time. remember apply for a variance and its a "necessity". Wish you well.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Baldwinsville, N.Y.
    I wanted to add most municipalties have there own codes over and above BOCA. you have to ask your local inspector for their Blessing.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Southeast, USA
    If the ramp is built as part of the house (not something that can be removed as needed) you are probably going to have to get a variance. I would assume (and hope) they would be accommodating, given the situation.

  6. #6
    Apply for a variance with the planning/code enforcement dept. of your city. The building inspector works for them and the city, and usually cannot grant this type of variance. If you city also has a (required) ADA compliance officer, I would also suggest making contact with them.

    The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Leeds, AL USA
    A ramp is a structure and building codes apply. Applying for a variance or waiver of codes is the only way to get what you need. >In my city< there is a fee for this, must have drawings, verbally present your request to city council at regular meeting, and in some cases a certified letter of your request must be mailed to most in your neighborhood (giving them opportunity to protest, if one person protests = another city council meeting).
    Building inspectors can vary what they say. When building my garage, I was told to place it no closer than 10' from property line. As I was building, a neighbor started his garage. The same inspector told him 3' and that's where he put it.
    If it doesn't impede foot traffic, city council should allow it as long as incline in within specs. Again, in my city, things like this must go through city council for them to vote on it. Slow process sometimes and it can add additional bureaucratic fees.

  8. #8
    Hi everybody, thanks for all of the information and suggestions.

    Rustyjames - The city official that we already talked to is actually the building inspector and code enforcement official. (I hope that he wasn't in his current position when he built that deck that had to be torn down. Hehehe)
    He said that the plan that we had would not work and came up with an alternative plan, but he said the new plan doesn't actually follow the rules either. He said that it was OK though because he said it was OK. I don't know if I want to go along with something like that unless I have something in writing though though in case he changes his mind or someone higher up than him has a problem with it.
    I'm going to try to find out what is actually a requirement and what things are not actually completely required.

    JoeMonte - Thanks for the reminder on mentioning that my ramp is a "necessity." I hope that they do allow the ramp to be closer than 5 feet. My Dad and his cousin actually built my first ramp when I came home from rehab, and that thing touches the sidewalk and has been that way since I came home in 1999.
    Hopefully the inspector will be a little nicer next time if I go meet with him so he can actually see in person why I am asking to do what I'm doing.
    I'll have to find out who is the right person to ask about any codes specific to my town.

    Brad09 - yes, the ramp is going to be building something that will not be removed. I did call and ask about the process to get a variance and was told that you have to go through the Board of Adjustment, it costs $100, and can take a month.

    KLD - I called City Hall and asked if I could speak to the ADA compliance officer and the person that answered the phone said, "What's the ADA?" That was the start of a downhill conversation. Needless to say, we do not have an official in that role in our town. I did look it up online and it says that any city that has more than 50 employees is supposed to have someone. We're not sure how many employees our city has, so it is possible that we are actually supposed to have one. Now that this has been brought to my attention, I might have to ask a few questions to see if that is something that we could try to fix in the future.

    Gearhead - The official that I spoke to about the variance did mention something about them sending out letters to people that live nearby and also putting something in the newspaper. He did not say anything however about people being able to protest me getting the variance, so now I am wondering if that is how it works in my town.
    That is crazy about your garage and the neighbors garage. That is a big difference in how far from the property line you can build.

    The ramp would definitely not be impeding foot traffic. As far as the incline being with in the specs, is that the 1:12 and 1:20 numbers that I read somewhere? What if the ramp was actually more shallow than the 1:20? Is there such thing as a ramp that is too shallow for regulations?

    I'm hoping that this will not take too long and not end up costing too much money to try to get a ramp that I most definitely need. (The same as a lot of you need too.)

    Thanks for all of the great information and suggestions. Hopefully everything will move along and I'll end up getting to build a ramp that will work well for me. Thanks, Melissa
    Life is a lesson you learn when you're through.

  9. #9
    If you use a powerchair you could go steeper than the ADA minimum requirement. If you use a manual then longer runs to rise is better.
    It sounds like the building inspector is willing to work with you on this, that's always a good thing. I would submit a sketch with dimensions and construction details, and get the building department to sign off. It's best practice not to muddy up the waters by making this complicated.

  10. #10
    Senior Member pfcs49's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    NW NJ ***********T12 cmplt since 95
    If there's a pair of railings and the ramp isn't too wide, I'll often go up by pulling on the railings. It's a different way of using my arms and I find it better than pushing.
    Also, I can climb a very steep ramp this way, way steeper than I could push without flipping.

    In NJ we needed a variance for a replacement deck ON OUR BACK SIDE because it was too close to the road, despite a pre-existing one!
    This required certified letters to all adjacent and across the street neighbors as well as appearance before the planning board? and took a month!
    I'm from the gummint and I'm here ta hep ya!
    69yo male T12 complete since 1995
    NW NJ

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