My Last Shop: Part 2 - Permitting
by Michael Smith
Mountain Park, GA
In my last article I wrote a short biography of myself and offered some details for what I want in My Last Shop. To recap, I am building a 24 X 36 shop - basically like a three car garage, but my plan is to park my car on one end and have a 24 X 24 space for my woodworking.
I have now gone through the permit phase and I thought I should pass on some of my experiences. My next article will be about bids and demolition.
Let's start with the question of whether or not you should get a permit. You know I'm going to say, "Yes, get a permit." There is always the temptation to think that you will build it correctly and no one from the government needs to know what you are doing. Or, maybe you are just adding a circuit or plumbing run but somehow, some way, not having a permit is going to come back and bite you in the butt.
The first house I built I thought I was going to live in until I died. In fact, I stayed in that house for 15 years. Every summer I had some kind of remodel or add-on project. When I sold it I found a section on the real estate disclosure forms that asked: Are there any modifications to the property that were made without a permit? Uhhhh. Yes a few. And just what were they? Hmmmm, let me think?
My second shop was a 24 X 40 foot two story barn and I got a permit for that. The Sonoma County building department gave me a lot of headaches over that with things I thought were unnecessary and in one instance, outrageous. I had wanted to add a bathroom on the first floor so I wouldn't have to go out to the pee tree. They had no problem with the bathroom but the only access to it had to be from outside. Let me see if I have this straight, if I want to take a leak I have to go out of my shop (past the pee tree) to get into the bathroom? Arrrrgh! We lived in that house for 8 years and when I sold it I was able to say there were no modifications done without a permit.
The third shop was a piece of cake. This was in Habersham County, Ga and getting a permit there was easy-peasy. I drew the plans with a free computer program but I could have drawn them on a piece of paper by hand. You just pay the money to the county and start work. Inspections were easygoing conversations with the inspector. It may not be that way now.
Could it be that I'm just getting older and mellower? Here's a link to that shop.
Now, for My Last Shop I had to get a permit from the City of Mountain Park. Mountain Park is a very, very small city, population 550 or so. There is a volunteer fire department and city hall with four paid employees. There is no gas station, grocery store or post office in Mountain Park. No two houses are alike and the streets are narrow.
City policy for construction permits require: A scaled plot plan of the lot that include showing the septic system and placement of the house and proposed shop. It also requires two foot graduations to show topographical slope. A silt fence plan to control silt run-off. Compliance with tree protection and preservation. And lastly, compliance with impervious surface requirements. What this means is that you can't cut down every tree and pave paradise. Geez! I thought Sonoma County was bad.
On second thought, this isn't so bad. I'm putting my shop where an old shed was. No trees are going to be cut and I'm not increasing the impervious surface because the square footage is the same from the old shed to the new shop. Yippee!
So I submit my plans and pay the money. And then I wait, and wait. I start thinking this has gone on too long. What could be taking so long for what is basically a three car detached garage? I called the City Hall and the lady who answers says, "Didn't the plan checker call you?" Mike in his rising inflection voice, "No, was he going to?" City Hall Lady, "Well I talked to him a week and a half ago and he had a question about silt fences." Arrrrrgh! OK, I'll be the adult and call him.
Plan Checker Guy: "I don't see the proposed building placement or silt fences on your submission Mr. Smith." Mr. Smith in his best level voice, "The building placement is the cross hatched rectangle on the scaled plot plan and the silt fence is shown by the bold line with hash marks around the rectangular cross hatched building. Plan Checker Guy, "Hmmmm, no, I don't see it. It's definitely not here in this submission." More Arrrrgh from me, "OK, I'll get a copy made and send it on to you."
Luckily the blue print shop (Nobody does blueprints any more but that's what the process is still called) can make prints while-u-wait and I drop off two new prints at City Hall. While there I ask if one of the two sets of plans are still in the office. City Hall Lady says, "Yes, one set is still here." I ask if I can see it just to see if the plot plan is there or maybe there are two plot plans in the package. Yup. One plot plan is there. That means that a duplicate is in the plan checker's hands and he's telling me it isn't there.
Anyway, long story short, (now that's a lie!) the plan checker guy has two copies of the same plan and it takes another two weeks to get approved. I'm thinking I should write a letter to Whoever-is-in-charge-down-there but oh well, I have my permit now. It's time to get something done.
Michael can be reached by email at
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