Re-Constructing Home-Part 7: Just Wait

When the Woods purchased their quirky, cluttered, but full-of-potential home, they planned to live in it for two months before the renovation started. But those two months quickly morphed into eight months of camping out in their pre-reno home. How? Three very simple factors: trees, permitting, and plans. Which turned out to be not-very-simple at all.

Their first step in realizing the potential of their dream house was to obtain the four required surveys that would guide their renovation process: elevation survey, tree survey, boundary survey, and easement survey. These surveys determine what can be added or subtracted from the property and where those additions and subtractions can take place.

The first glitch arrived in the form of a driveway they didn’t even want. When the Woods submitted their renovation/construction plans to the city, the plans were rejected because they didn’t include a driveway. In the historic area where the house is situated, any property being significantly upgraded must include a driveway that goes behind the house. Derek and Bethany had intentionally left the driveway out of the plans the first go-round, because driveways are expensive and, while practical, not the most enticing or essential part of the renovation design. But now a driveway was required. So, they revamped the plans to include one.

But the addition of a driveway meant bringing an arborist into the mix. The driveway meant that the Woods would have to remove two trees from their property. Which is no simple feat in the city of Decatur.

“According to the Tree Canopy Conservation Ordinance, property owners in residential zoning districts are allowed to remove up to 3 healthy, protected trees during an 18 month period. A tree information permit shall be filed with the City to track the reasons for the tree removal, the amount of tree canopy removed and a plan for replanting if applicable.”

Serious business, these trees. So, they contacted an arborist, who created a tree conservation plan for them.

They applied for permits to remove the trees, so that they could add a driveway (that they hadn’t been too keen on anywat). But then they discovered that the new plans placed the driveway too close to the existing trees (different trees from the trees they needed to remove to create the driveway in the first place). So they revised the plans again. Then they had to send the plans back to the arborist for verification, so as not to endanger the trees. And so it went. For 6 weeks.

In addition to The Great Tree Debacle, the plans for the actual dwelling had to be permitted, too. And they had to meet very specific ratio criteria regarding the amount of the lot the house can cover and the precise square footage the lot can allow. These algorithms must be met and approved by the appropriate authorities before construction can begin. Not to mention the design aspects which have to be hashed out—but that’s another story for another day.

And then, when the arborist had cleared their plans, and they’d decided where to replant trees so they had the appropriate amount of tree canopy coverage on their property, and they had the proper house to land ratios–they discovered that the city had lost their permits. Poof. Gone.

And so it went.

But the city eventually found the permits, which were in the wrong folder it seems, and expedited the process for approval. When all was said and done, permitting and planning took 3 months. 3 months before any construction could begin at all. 3 months of fretting, and following-up, and waiting. 3 long months.

Surely, the potential this house held would be worth all the waiting.


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