The Building Permit

We are getting close to actually breaking ground! Initially, our plans were to break ground on March 1, but we had a very mild winter with very little snow, so at the end of January we decided to get started a little earlier. A phone call to the county told us that the building permit process should take about seven days... I guess in some type of utopia-like society that might be true. As of right now (five weeks after submitting our plans to the county), we still do not actually have a building permit - but we are theoretically close!

The delay has been caused by classic red-tape issues. After we purchased the lot, the land developer sent over various documents to the county with information about our soil type, a document showing that we paid the water connection fee at the time we purchased the lot (a requirement for our area), etc.

While preparing to submit our building permit application, the county told us they had not received the document showing that we paid the water connection fee, so we called the various people necessary to have the document sent again. We followed up with the county a week or two later, and again we were told that they had not received the document. Again, we requested it to be resent (this was the third time). We followed up with the county a week later, and AGAIN we were told that they had not received the document. On the fourth try, the county finally confirmed to us that they received it.

The individual who was sending the document to the county then forwarded to me an email exchange that he had with the county a month and a half prior where the county confessed that in fact they had received the document. However, when the county received it, there was no "open" building permit on the lot (meaning that we had not yet filled out the building permit application). As a result, they simply tossed the document out.

I can't believe that they do not have some type of "pending documents" file for lots in our county, but apparently until you submit a building permit application, they totally ignore and discard any documents that are mailed in about your lot. The problem is that often these documents are sent in soon after you purchase your lot, however, since we were not building right away we had not turned in a building permit application. So, the documents go in the trash. Amazing.

Of course, they never told us in our many conversations with them about this "missing" document or that they throw out documents for lots that did not have an open permit application. That would have been helpful.

I get frustrated when I think about this - so I won't focus on it anymore. The bottom line is that if you want to get a permit in a reasonable time, I recommend that you go (in person, don't call) to the county and tell them where your lot is and ask them EXACTLY what you will need to provide them in order to get a permit. Ask them to list any paperwork that they need from the land developer or you about your lot that they do not already have. Do this as soon as you purchase the lot even if you are not planning on building right away - the sooner the better.

Some employees of government institutions are not up-to-date on the definition of friendly service, so buy some goodwill by being courteous. But don't settle for incomplete or unclear information, make them take the time to answer all of your questions; that is what they are paid for.

Since we are in a rural area, there is no sewer system in the subdivision. As a result, we will need a septic tank. A septic tank requires a separate permit, and in order to receive the permit an engineer must design the system. This was not cheap - it cost about $375 for the design and $325 for the permit. The reason they are so concerned is that an improper septic system can be a health hazard and difficult to fix. We were required to submit our septic tank permit to the county as a part of our building permit application.

Also, I found out today that we need to submit our plans for review by the Homeowner's Association. They basically review the plans and confirm that they meet the subdivision's covenants. The builder and I have already reviewed the covenants, and our plans easily exceed them, however, they can potentially hold up our project if they want to. It was only by accident that we talked to someone who told us about the approval process - so I recommend calling the Homeowner's Association chairman to ask about what they require you to do before you build (if anything).

So, we should have a permit within the next few days (I hope!)

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