Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL
Sunday, May 29th, 2005
In October of 2004, Jason and I put an offer on an acre of land on a
lake in Wedgefield, which is a community east of Orlando. The property
turned out to be part of an estate sale, which greatly complicated the
purchase process. In addition, the seller's realtor wasn't the most
friendly, helpful, or organized individual. Luckily, we had a
wonderful realtor who was assertive, kept us calm, and spent countless
hours doing research or following up on things for us. In March of
2005, we finally closed on the property.
For those of you who've
never built a house before, it isn't as simple as just buying a plot of
land and then plunking a house down on it. Oh no. There are hoops, many
hoops to jump through before you can even break ground. And costly
hoops they are :) So, now, as June begins, we are finally beginning the
process that will lead us to a groundbreaking sometime in September.
might be a lot of technical (read, boring) stuff in this journal to
help me organize the whole process. I promise I won't be offended if
you skip those parts. I'd do the same thing, if I was you. Eventually
there will be pictures (if there aren't, blame Jason) for those of you
that are interested.
Let the journey begin...
The property itself is 150 ft. wide by 300 ft. deep, with the road on
the South border, and the lake (or pond, if you ask Jason) to the
north. We currently have a neighbor to the east, but none on the west.
The southwest and northeast corner are inhabited with cypress trees,
which are sort of the sacred inhabitants of Florida wetlands. You don't
touch cypress, if you can at all avoid it. There are a few sizable
slash pines here and there, and a good-sized maple tree near the front
of the property, but other than that, there is most just scrub brush
and small trees. The driveway will eventually come up the east side of
the property and curve around to a side-entry garage on the east side
of the house. The well will be on the east side as well, as our
neighbors have already put their well on the western edge of their
property (thus making a septic system on that side impossible). The
septic will go either in front of or even with the house, to the west
or south of where the house is. We will be able to clear the driveway,
housepad, yard, and everything embedded in the cypress dome (other than
the cypress). I like the cypress anyways, as it provides some blockage
from the street and will make for a nice quiet area. It's not swampy
cypress either, and has been completely dry every time I've been to the
site. The whole middle third of the property is herbaceous (crappy)
wetland, meaning we can destroy it but will pay to do so. There's no
avoiding this, so it is what it is. We're allowed to "limb" any trees
to preserve a lake view or any other view if needed. Once all the
underbrush is cleared, it should be really nice. We're even allowed to
build a walkway out to the lake through the cypress if we care to.
So, that's the property (pictures to follow eventually, I hope).
Environmental Consultant Meeting
Just a note here, first- I forgot to mention that we are
owner-building. For those non-construction types, this does NOT mean
that Jay and I will be out there swinging a hammer 8 hours a day for 10
months. TRUST ME, it doesn't mean that... If it does, I quit ;).
Hypothetically, what it means is that we forgo hiring a contractor and
instead manage the construction process ourselves and hire our own
subs. Some of the finish work we will actually do ourselves. I think
we're capable of it, although we may end up retaining a contractor on
an as-needed basis for advice, connections, order of operations, etc.
We've read a ton of books and are intelligent people. I'm really good
at project management, and J is good with the construction type stuff.
Unfortunately, banks don't necessarily have as much faith in our
ability to build a house, so financing will be really tricky. I think
the plan is to get through wetlands, begin to clear and fill, and get
our house plans done. This will allow us to get estimates from subs,
which of course will drive the bottom line we are asking the bank for.
Luckily, the value of the property above and beyond what we owe, in
addition to any money we've put into improvements/fees counts as
equity. I'm pretty secure in the whole process except for the part
about knowing the steps, the timing, and the order of the steps. I'm
still confused with all the permits, order of permits, answering to
different jurisdictional authorities, etc. Hopefully, I'll soon be an
Because of all the wetland stuff, we've retained an
environmental consultant to take us through the wetland
determination/mitigation process. The wetland area determination
(county) is the first part, which will take two to three weeks. But
then there is also a state part, although they can't double charge you
for mitigation. Basically, for any wetland you impact, you will have to
pay a mitigation fee. Mitigation is a really interesting concept. Since
we are "destroying," say, half an acre of wetland, we must pay to
preserve an acre elsewhere. Of course this thought process is flawed,
since there is still a net loss of wetlands in the end. But whatever,
it's the rule. Until recently, how much you had to pay in mitigation
was dependent on what type of wetland you were going to destroy. For
example, you good, detail-oriented readers will remember that cypress
wetlands are the most valuable. If you destroy cypress, you will pay
maybe a 10 to 1 ratio (destroy 1 acre, preserve 10). This gets really
expensive, and the mitigation wetlands available are really limited
anyways. So now the county is just using the following straightforward
appraised value (per county)* percentage of property where wetland is impacted=mitigation cost.
So, for example, an acre property appraised at $42,500 where you plan to impact a third of an acre will cost you $12,750.
I met the environmental consultant, Steve, at the site this morning. In
typical survivalist/naturalist fashion, he was there with camo pants and
fishing vest. Love that guy. He also pointed out two deer that were
just chilling about 100 feet from where we were standing. So cool!
We'll have nature in our backyard! At least, whatever nature Jada will
Steve has really good relationships with all the
wetland decisionmakers, which will really help us. He advised that we
try to be at any meetings as "proof" that we really do have a desire to
preserve nature and plan to make Wedgefield our permanent home. He'll
be submitting our initial applications within a week or two, and as
soon as they get approved, we can begin to clear. We can fill after we
go through the site plan submission process with the three required
agencies, and it looks like we are on target for an October