Good luck getting a building permit

Bureaucracy overshadows American ideals of homeownership, entrepreneurship

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Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series. Last time we heard the story of Dan Ludwig, a cabinetmaker who came to America in 1955, built himself a workshop in his backyard, and went on with the business of making a living.But times have changed, and not for the better. Here's how things might go for Dan if he'd been an immigrant in the year 2011 instead of 1955. Dan is at the counter of his local planning department, applying for a permit to build his workshop: Building official (staring into a computer screen): "Hmm, your property isn't zoned for commercial or light industrial usage -- you'll need to get a variance (the official grabs a thick sheaf of formwork and hands it to a bewildered Dan). Here's the application. They don't grant many of these variances, but of course you're welcome to try. "You'll need to contact all your neighbors within a 300-foot radius so they'll have an opportunity to comment on your proposal. You'll also need to give ...