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February 9, 2004: the day we submitted our application for a building permit
A couple of months after our Fall 2003 trip to North Carolina, Steve Hill of Topsider made one of his periodic trips out to California. We met him in Calaveras on Thanksgiving week and escorted him up to our mountain top. Perhaps it was just sales talk, but two of his remarks were memorable:
One: "I see a lot of properties in my job, but this is one of the most beautiful properties I've ever seen."
Two (directed at Russell): "How could you ever, ever think of building anything else besides a Topsider up here with this view?!"
We had always planned to build the house on the northeast corner of the building pad, to keep space on the west and south sides for lounging, playing, etc. After talking to Steve, though, we've decided to move the house to the southeast corner instead. This will allow the southern balconies to have a glimpse of the distant Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east.
Steve reassured us that everything is going well at Topsider central, and that we should expect our blueprints in the early Spring of 2004.
Steve Hill and Gail inspect the building site... and the view
While we were going through the design and blueprint process with Topsider during the past year, we were closing other open action items as well.
A small section of our entrance road runs through a corner of land belonging to the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management. While the previous owner had obtained an easement from the BLM, we needed to pay a small fee to get the easement transferred to our name. We finished this in June 2003.
At the end of July 2003, we had our small barn built. And during the fall of 2003, we went through the process of getting our septic system engineered. Plans were approved at the end of November.
Finally, at the beginning of February 2004, we received a huge mailing tube from FedEx. Opening it, we were excited to find almost a dozen pages of blueprints inside, courtesy of Topsider. So on February 9, Russell took a day off from work and we made a day trip up to Gold Country. Our destination was the town of San Andreas, the Calaveras County seat, where we would apply for a building permit.
Topsider sent us these fun computer-generated images of our kitchen
We had been warned that process of filling out the initial application could take anywhere from several minutes to several hours, depending. It is a first-come-first-served line, and it can get very busy. We drove up first thing in the morning and had a lucky day. We were extra nice to the clerk, and we were finished within half an hour.
The clerk told us that final blueprint approval would take about three to six weeks, so there was nothing more to do at this point except wait. So we waited. And waited.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of March, we made our third and final house payment to Topsider. They now had all of our money.
More than six weeks later, at the end of April, we still hadn't heard anything from Calaveras County.. Gail called for a status update. Our permit had not yet been issued. First of all, Calaveras' outside consultant, Precision Inspection, had some requests for changes. Second, there had been no electrical plan included in the blueprints.
Topsider said "Oops" and sent out an electrical plan in early May. Unfortunately, this put us back at the end of the queue, and we were told that we would have to wait another six weeks.
The blueprint changes took longer. For some reason, it was suddenly getting more difficult to get timely responses from Topsider. We arranged for Precision Inspection to contact Topsider directly. Here follow some direct entries from Gail's journal:
"May 10 - Our plans still with Precision Inspection- waiting for corrections from Topsider."
"June 3 - Our plans still with Precision. Called Topsider. Jim DuBois will call P.I."
"June 22 - Per P.I. our plans still 2-1/2 weeks to permit."
Finally, on June 28, 2004, our plans were approved and we received our long-awaited building permit.
Topsider explained that during this long wait, the company had experienced a massive turnover in personnel. The previous Director of Operations, Pete Anthony, was no longer with the company. The new director was Al Fielders. Al told Gail that there had been some unavoidable delays and process changes, but everything should run more smoothly from now on.
Our original intention had been to get our building permit by the end of March, lay the foundation in April, then spend the Summer building the house. It is now the end of June, and we have not even begun yet. We are several months behind schedule. We are still optimistic that if we get the foundation completed immediately, we can still have at least a waterproof shell erected by the end of Fall, before the rainy season starts.
We are not looking forward to doing construction during the height of Summer, but we will take things one step at a time. As of the end of June, our septic system is now installed, inspected, and approved. We have received our long-awaited building permit. We finally have permission to proceed.
Still waiting for our dream house...
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