The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.
As I recounted in an earlier post, our land has been classified by the Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning Department as a subdivision. As a result, we had to have a land survey plat completed for our property, and were requesting a waiver for the county’s public works department’s requirement for a stormwater drainage report. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again here: Call the county planning and/or zoning department where any land you plan to purchase is located and ask about what it would take to get a building permit before you purchase.
The final plat and the waiver were recommended for approval by the zoning department staff. The process, which is arguably somewhat convoluted, then required the final plat to be approved by the County Planning Commission. We had every reason to believe that the staff’s recommended action would be taken. Turns out, we ran into some problems at the commission meeting: The commissioners didn’t want to make an exception in our case should another exception come up for consideration some day in the future. Regardless of how we felt about that reasoning (most solidly averse), the final plat was approved, but the waiver for the drainage report was not.
We, once again, made a few phone calls to the planning department, and have another opportunity to get our plat and waiver approved at the Board of County Commission meeting. Yes, you’ve been following along correctly: The staff makes a recommendation, then the County Planning Commission approves the plat to be considered by yet another body of governance, the Board of County Commission. The Board, then, has the final say on whether the plat and waiver are approved The process has a … well … healthy dose of bureaucracy.
As part of the process, we read through the 145 pages worth of definitions and regulations that govern subdivision zoning. We found some interesting details, including the fact that, by our understanding, our house and its situation should be considered an exception to the “subdivision” classification. Also, the plat process should have been done in order to officially split our property from its parent piece, not now, at this later date, in order to secure a building permit. I hope none of you have to read through as much legal jargon as we have read in the past week, or that you hire an attorney should you need to, but I will say, reading these definitions has helped us get a stronger foothold in the process.
We plan to present all of this information and our final appeal for approval at the Board’s meeting this week. We’ll update you with how our research and persistence pays off. In the meantime, the post next week will be much more fun, and back on the topic of house design.
Photo of Leavenworth County Courthouse by Flickr/courthouselover.
Next in the series: Who Will Be Our House Builder: Should We Hire a Contractor or Build Ourselves?
Previously in the series: How Do We Choose a Passive Solar House Design?
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer and Tyler by leaving a comment below!
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