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Lakefront Log Home Project: Log Home Diary Entry #12, Diversion No. 1

Financing issues and extensive permit processing delay construction of the Curnows' log home.
by George and Marlyn Curnow

Diversion No. 1

Log Home Diary Entry #12
Southwestern Virginia log home project | Open Space

Why are we diverting from our building process? We’re learning that building a home doesn’t occur sequentially. Rather, a number of things run in parallel until a stumbling block arises; then that takes the spotlight. You can plan all you want, but there remain things beyond your control. Here’s a sampling:

  • Prior to ordering the logs, it’s a good idea to get any construction/mortgage financing in order. We started this process early. Not all lenders want to finance log homes, but those who do are quite happy with them. With prior homes, we’ve had mortgage approval take as little as 15 minutes. This process took months because of our current economy. We missed no parts to the application process, as this fits neatly into George’s career skills. Credit, for us, was never an issue. Unfortunately, our lender turned completely paranoid. The request for new information was never ending whenever someone else became involved in the process. And it went on for months. Ironically, this was the same lender who financed our land purchase so quickly, and we previously paid that off. Now, lenders are seemingly fearful of making a mistake. So start early, and brace yourselves for bureaucracy on steroids.
  • Obtaining a building permit in Franklin County, Virginia, is a horror show. As a business person, “logic” tells you that it is in everybody’s best interest to make the building permit process move as quickly as possible. It gets local workers working and increases the tax value of the building site, which increases the tax revenues for the county. Everybody wins! But government logic works a bit different. We’ve concluded that, with requests for building permits being down, government workers feel threatened if there is not enough work to keep them busy. So the game seems to be to find things to extend the permit process, thus making work to look busy and show that you’re really needed. It’s sad, but the facts support the conclusion. At first, we felt, “Why us?” But as we’ve met local people who have gone through the building process, the empathetic smiles and kind words assured us we were simply going through some local rite of passage. Our conclusion has been to tuck this lesson away in our minds and wait for that early day in a future November when we can take part in righting the wrong at our new polling place. Our day will come — we can be patient! This will encapsulate the two main issues:
  1. The county decided to impose a soil-and-erosion remediation plan on our property. Such a plan had previously only been imposed on commercial property, but someone decided it would also be good for residential home construction. This required hiring a special engineer to analyze multiple soil samples and elevations on our property and to submit a written report to the county with a bill to us for $2,080. The engineer we hired was forthright enough to say this was all very “silly,” but we had no choice.
  2. The county then decided we had to move the house from the proposed site, as it would be too close to an easement. Essentially, this would have made the property unbuildable. Our anxiety level shot through the roof. As it turned out, these same county geniuses had previously — and “illegally” — made a second lot adjacent to our building site when the original landowner had only wanted to extend the boundaries of her property by about 50 feet. Our engineer went to bat for us, and had to get the county attorney to concur and explain to the building permit authorities that the county had exceeded its authority and needed to correct it.

The permit process caused about a two-month delay. Be prepared with the right attitude. Stuff does and will happen that is beyond your control.

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