One of the biggest mistakes that churches make when they are looking to expand their existing structure is assuming that they can just build on and add whatever they want and still be in compliance with building codes and zoning ordinances.
Just because your church building was in compliance with all the city or county rules that applied to it when it was first built does not mean that it will continue to be so when you build onto it.
Even minor updates to your church design like replacing carpet and paint could trigger mandatory building code upgrades throughout the building when you try to get a permit for cosmetic changes to your building.
If you’re building a new church building on the same property as your existing building, you need to make sure the proximities are right or again you could trigger required code upgrades to your existing building.
And if you change the use for part of your building, such as adding a café or a daycare, you may be subject to completely new building codes and may no longer be considered just a church for the purposes of zoning, which could mean the need for a variance and could require substantially more costs than you were expecting to get that operation up and running.
Many church building committees just assume they can do whatever they want if they already have a church building existing on a property, but the city or county government will want to be involved every step of the way to make sure you’re complying with zoning, safety and land use regulations.
That’s why it is so important to develop a master plan before you get into the design process of your new church building or remodeling project. You need to know what the legal ramifications are when you choose to build a new building or change your existing structure in a particular way.
So many churches skip this step because they go to a bunch of different vendors – surveyors, landscape architects, designers, etc. – and none of them really look at the big picture of what impact this development will have and the legal and public safety hurdles they’ll need to jump through. Savvy churches utilize church design and construction consultants that are able to coordinate all of the team players.
Even churches that have full-fledged building committees might be missing out on some of these details because the committee members are so concerned with the big picture of how beautiful and useful their new building is going to be that they don’t think about the mundane permitting and zoning aspects – but doing these things incorrectly can cost you big money if you have to redraw plans, pay to get a variance or land use change or have to make substantial infrastructure upgrades to comply with the existing land use and concurrency regulations.
Taking the time to plan your project right on the front end will give you peace of mind that you can meet your budget as the project continues.