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I am afraid on this website, I do not always get to give good news, and that this is one of these times.1) Can the city force me as one of their conditions of approval to put a deed restriction on my property?
The answer is yes, I am afraid. The city does not have
to approve the variance. If it does, then it can do so only with the condition that a restriction be placed on your deed. This is not unusual in itself, and the city does have the right to do so. Of course, this is negotiable - you can try to ask them to drop this condition - but it is up to them. In the end, they do not even have to approve the variance.2) Aren't deed restrictions imposed by other nearby property owners; only zoning can be imposed by the city?
No, not quite. Restrictive covenants (the general term for such a restriction) may be placed on a title
by the developer, by a court order from another party (typically when an easement situation goes to court), by the owner themselves (in this case), or by an easement agreement between two parties which then recorded with the county and which runs with the deed.
In this case, the city would be asking you to agree to have this restriction leveled unto the deed as part of the agreement to allow the variance.3) Is the city admitting that I currently do not have to conform to their paint color standards?
No. By allowing the variance, or by proposing a compromise that would allow the variance if a certain condition is met (such as in your case), the city is not admitting that you do not have to conform. The point of the variance is to have the city essentially "cut you a break" and agree that your situation will variate from the ordinances in force for land use (hence the term "variance"), for good cause. The city ordinances allow them to make this exception.4) Is there a difference between paint color standards, fence, trees, building standards? If not, then is the city also admitting that my property does not have to follow their building and other standards as well?
See above. The city has ordinances for land use. As a party to a deed in that city, you are bound by these ordinances. The ordinances allow the city to give you a break and allow a variance that would go outside what is allowed per the ordinance. That is basically it. By acknowledging your variance request and/or providing a counter-offer, they are not admitting anything, but are simply stating: "Okay, we will allow your property not to follow the ordinances, if..."
I hope this helps and clarifies. Good luck.
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