ELM DRIVE – DISSECTING A PROJECT – I SWALLOWED A FLY…

There is a song for children about an old woman who accidentally swallows a fly. As a cure she swallows a spider but then decides that wasn’t a good idea and the slope gets pretty slippery as she tries to undo what she has done.

I’m an old woman who has done the same thing. I designed this project with a room and bathroom that I labeled as a “guest nest”. I had all my drawings done including the engineered foundation; and then I submitted my package to the planning department. It took them about 5 minutes to decide that my “guest nest” was actually an ADU (accessory dwelling unit). No big deal – I had to fill out a little additional paperwork and they approved the plan.

At that point I moved the package to the building department. Upon submission they requested a “sanitary clearance” from the sewer provider. In this case sewer service is provided by the City of Grand Junction. Because there had been a dwelling on the lot previously, I already had a sewer. This would be easy.  I went to the City offices and they looked up the planning clearance. Uh-oh. This structure has an ADU and that means you get to pay an additional 72% of the cost of a new sewer tap for the impact on the system. I’d like to point out that this entire structure is less than 1000 square feet and has two bathrooms total. I could build a 2000 square foot house with two bathrooms and not pay any additional fee. But I coughed up the $3650 and even remained pleasant with the staff.

The building department was cool – they said that while I was getting that paper work collected that they would go ahead and review my plans. Remember, I had everything drawn as a “guest nest”. But now I was constructing an ADU. Same building, same floorplan – but an ADU requires a firewall to protect the units from each other. Okay, I have dealt with firewalls on previous projects – a little extra sheetrock – not a big deal. Except for a little clause in the code relating to how they are constructed:  shall extend from the Foundation to the underside of the roof sheathing. Uh-oh. My drawings had an engineered foundation that was essentially a rectangle. But one corner of the house was the now ADU and that meant those two inner walls needed foundation under them too. Two lines on the drawings needed to be added. TWO LINES! And I couldn’t add them myself – no. The drawings needed to go back to the engineer to be reviewed and restamped. The same engineer that had taken MONTHS to get me my first set of drawings. I knew what I would hear even before I sent the request: the engineer would need $300 to revise the drawings. The draftsman would need $75 per hour to draw the lines. And, because everyone is incredibly busy, it would take about 10 days to draw those two lines!

While I absorbed this bad news, I also reached out to my lumber company. Their engineer designs the floor assembly and joists. Because we were no longer spanning from one outer wall to the other, we would need a new floor assembly drawn. They don’t charge extra for this when they are selling you the lumber. But because I am now building two smaller floors that changes the materials needed. And because of the delay in starting package prices have increased. So, between the two my new bid was $5000 HIGHER than the previous bid. Oh – and my plumbers said the change to the foundation was going to alter their plan too – but they haven’t provided a number that the change will cost as yet.

I build “affordable housing”. But I’m beginning to wonder if I can afford it…

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