Building on a landlocked narrow lot property-Does anyone know restrictions the city, county or ward might impose on doing this?

Asked by Cookie, Chicago, Logan Square, 60647 Wed Jan 15, 2014

Hi there,
Looking for advice on building on a landlocked property. I see some houses within my neighborhood that have front entry garages, but their lots seem slightly bit wider. I want to know what my limitations are before embarking on a project. My partner seems to think that since our lot has 3 ft (at minimum) setbacks amongst our neighbors that we are good to go. I live on a dead end street, and I would like to use the exisiting foot print of the house, 20 x40, I'm really not interested in going bigger, and having a 'luxury' house..., just a funtional, pratical home, safe and roomy enough to raise a family of four. I've researched house plans online, but know that a more effective and safer method is to work with an architect. I know this is a long question, any body out their work on such a project? Please don't answer with questions, thanks!~

Help the community by answering this question:

+ web reference
Web reference:


Richard Hunt,…, , Chicago, IL
Wed Jan 15, 2014

Zoning rules vary depending on the address and the size of the property. So, you cannot get an accurate answer without answering questions like: ' what zoning district are you in (what's the address)?' and 'what are the dimensions of your lot, exactly?' Side yard requirements are often a percentage of the lot width.

Stock plan services are nice to get ideas of what your likes and dislikes are... however, many plans are designed for other regions of the country and you would probably have to hire a local architect to bring the plans you purchased from the service up to local codes... Chicago has it's own building code.

You could visit the zoning department in city hall to see what your property's limitations are... bring a plat of survey and be prepared to answer questions. The zoning code is online, but may be daunting to those unfamiliar to building/zoning terminology.

This information is a bit vague; however, it isn't possible to provide accurate information about a building project without having a minimum amount of information about the project and / or asking questions.

Good luck.

Richard Hunt
Hunt and Hunt Architects
1 vote
Bill J Delig…, Agent, Naperville, IL
Sat Feb 15, 2014
Check with the Zoning Department. There is a maximum percentage of the lot size that you can build on.
0 votes
JIM Michaels, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Jan 22, 2014
email me at and I will send you my contact
0 votes
Theresa (TJ)…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Fri Jan 17, 2014
As a former employee of the City of Chicago, with over 20+ years combined experience in the Infra-structure departments (i.e., Zoning, Buildings, Sewers, Construction & Permits) and resources in the remaining few, I would strongly recommend that you work with someone who has experience, resources and good references. Also, who would be able to expedite your drawings, permits, etc. I can refer three (3) very skilled people in the business who would definitely alleviate your fears. If you are interested, please contact me direct at (773) 680-8870; or via my email: Please understand, the City of Chicago, is a whole different animal.
0 votes
Accurate Ins…, Other Pro, Chicago, IL
Fri Jan 17, 2014
As Richard brought up, your questions cannot be answered specifically without the address so that one knows the zoning district for the house. You can get basic info here and other places but for detailed info you'll need to have a consultation with a professional.
Beyond that your question brings up a recurring issue for existing homeowners in changing neighborhoods. While it is common for long time residents to not entirely buy into the new standards springing up in a gentrifying, i.e. going upscale, neighborhood, that differential can pose problems for an owner in the long run.
Yes you want to rehab your home or even build a newer nicer home on your existing lot but you don't want to go along with the luxury standards that are becoming the norm for your area.
If you plan on being in your home for the next 20 years or so, then that will likely be fine. However, if you are looking at maybe only staying in the property for 5 years or so and reaping a perceived profit; then that could be a problem.
The problem comes about when owners don't rehab or build to the new norms of the neighborhood. If your property isn't meeting those expectations, potential buyers may view it as a tear down no matter how nice you made it. If the property is viewed as a teardown in the market place then obviously the sale price will be limited.
I suggest you run the numbers several ways in terms of what the property is worth now, what it would be worth based on your new build and what it would be worth as a demo lot. Knowing the spread between those numbers can be very helpful in making a decision
0 votes
Manuel Brown, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Jan 16, 2014

You received a lot of good advise. This is definitely going to be a zoning issue and you need a licensed architect.
0 votes
Mike Kravitz, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Jan 16, 2014
I have a great Architect you could speak to.

0 votes
Naaman G. La…, Other Pro, Chicago, IL
Thu Jan 16, 2014
Mr. Hunts answer is spot on. I am a licensed Architect with a LOT of experience pulling permits in the city. I will try to answer your question point by point.
1. Front entry garage - curb cut, driveway fee every year, restrictions based on distance from intersections.
2. Survey required to establish the size of your lot and setbacks - period.
3. Footprint of house may be "locked in". Along with footprint is TOTAL area of building allowed based on lot area - need survey.
4. Plans online would need to be modified to fit your lot.
Please feel free to contact me with any further questions or point you the way at city hall.
0 votes
David Hanna, Agent, Chicago, IL
Thu Jan 16, 2014
you need an architect with a good track record in the city, and who has dealt with lots that are less than standard size (width,depth). Every one of these is different, and there is no set outline for what will and will not be allowed.
A front facing garage means a curb cut, and that is going to mean a lost parking space on the street, something your neighbors and the city may not like.
New construction has different rules than a renovation, and renovations have limitations as to the extent of the work before you are considered a new construction project.
If this is where you want to live, there is probably a way to get a house you will be happy with, but you need professional assistance and be ready for compromise on design
0 votes
Dick Post, Agent, ORLAND PARK, IL
Thu Jan 16, 2014
Your best bet would be to call the city's zoning/building department. They would be able to answer you question.
0 votes
Santiago Ken…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Jan 15, 2014
The city knows about that restrictions , call the zoning department with a legal description in hand
0 votes
Search Advice
Ask our community a question

Email me when…

Learn more