When you rebuild the roof over a bay window without a building permit, you commit a criminal act in a certain small town -- even if your repair does not change the foot print of the house.
Without an official "variance," you can't get a building permit because, you scum, you live in a "non-conforming structure." That's because the home sits 30 feet from the rear property line rather than the required 35. That travesty is a relic of the era before it occurred to local politicians and busybodies that government ought to decide what is neighborly -- and aesthetically pleasing -- through zoning laws crafted like a cheap rayon sock. One size fits all. Never mind that your modest little cabin occupies less than 1000 square feet on an acre-plus in a town where a lot 50 feet by 200 feet is usual.
It costs $200 to apply for a zoning variance. It takes about two months, if you're lucky, and requires a set of engineering drawings and a survey map. You need to appear at a Board of Adjustment meeting, tug your forelock again and humbly explain why it is a hardship to have your roof leaking perilously close to your laptop.
If the board says "no," it still gets to keep your $200. Then you either live with the leak or smear big globs of black tar over where you think it originates. That's legal.
Tip O'Neil should have written two corollaries. Tyranny is local. So is idiocy.
And if that ain't the Lord's own truth I'll kiss your arse on the rooftop and give you an hour to fiddle up a crowd.