A Sandpoint, Idaho General Contractor
Blog Header Photo

Online Blog > Previous Entry 7/16/2017 > 9/24/2017 - Small Custom Home over Garage > Next Entry 10/29/2017

Subscribe to our RSS feed to automatically receive new blog entries

Our latest major project, among many of the smaller ones that we take on that only take one to several days, is known in Bonner County as an accessory dwelling unit. On most of the zoned properties in the county, homeowners are allowed a single family dwelling of any size, a guest house of up to 600 SQF and without a kitchen, and a smaller home, in essence, known as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). The ADU can have up to 900 SQF of living space and a kitchen.

In the current case, on the Pend Oreille River, a homeowner who is just a few doors down from a previous customer of ours contacted us to build for them an ADU over a garage that will house their boat and workbench space. As is usual with many of our clients, we designed this building to fit the needs of the client and to match the available site conditions. We provide our design services for free for those who then progress toward a contract for our custom build services.

The site, like our last project at Garfield Bay is a very sloped lot toward the water and is only 75' wide by about 180' deep. Part of the challenge is that most of the slope is on the upper buildable end of the lot, and ingress/egress and building location is confined to the 75' width. As well, part of the lot is in the floodway (not buildable according to FEMA and county requirements), and when we first looked at the site there were overhead power lines in a utility easement, which requires a 20' setback to a building from the powerline centerline, but also that land was not part of the homeowners property, and so there was also the additional 25' front yard setback according to the county's zoning of the parcel. This made it very difficult to design a building of sufficient size that also allowed the maneuvering on the parcel of a truck pulling a 24' boat trailer to navigate that trailer into and out of the garage.

Our first recommendation then to the homeowner was to see if they could negotiate the purchase of a portion of their neighbor's property so that they could push the front yard setback significantly south. The acquisition of the neighbor's property is through what is known as a boundary line adjustment. The first requirement though is that we check whether the current lots with their zoning are available to be split and do boundary line adjustments. One reason they would not be: In this case, the zoning for the lots is recreational. According to the county codes, the minimum lot size for that zoning district is 2.5 acres. We could adjust the boundary line if both resulting lots would still meet that minimum parcel size. However, both of the lots involved were well below the minimum 2.5 acre lot size. They are then labeled non-conforming lots. Essentially, they were created before the current zoning standards, and are thus exempt from the minimum lot size requirement.

One other layer of complication would have been if the subdivision was a platted subdivision. To change a boundary line inside of a platted subdivision is a much more complicated effort that involves surveyors, engineers and the county's approval. This subdivision was not a platted subdivision, so the only requirement was to negotiate with the neighbors for acquisition of part of their property and then file deeds that reflect the transfer of property and consolidation of the acquired piece into one lot for our homeowner. We did hire a surveyor to pin our homeowner's property corners, the piece we were acquiring and to write the descriptions for the sellers and our homeowner. Doing all this gave us the property we needed to place the building where it would be ideally located, EXCEPT for one last little hurdle - the overhead power lines owned by the utility.

We could have made the new building location work with just the acquisition of property, but ideally we would have liked to push that new building a little further south, which would move it into the overhead utility line easement, a location that is not allowed. We needed a service change by the utility anyway, since the electrical service entrance was only 60 amps and fed directly to the existing cabin on the homeowners property (which is what was being treated as the allowed single family dwelling by the county). There was not then sufficient electrical power available to feed our new building. Therefore, the goal was to install a new meter pedestal independent of any building, change to a new 200 amp service with the utility (by means of a new transformer) and then feed 100 amps to the existing cabin and 200 amps to the new home. Since the utility would be involved, I suggested to my homeowner client that we have the utility also estimate for us the construction costs to move their overhead lines to an underground feed. That change reduces the easement requirement from 40' to 20', and it allows us to relocate the utility line even further south on the property. The homeowner agreed the resulting estimate was a good investment, and so that is exactly what we had done. It also improved the attractiveness of the property to remove from sight high voltage overhead lines and a couple of utility poles. Here is the new meter pedestal prior to the arrival of the utility company:

In the case of this service change, the utility, Northern Lights, asked that we install conduit for the primary underground line before they came out and removed the overhead and energized the new underground service. Therefore, we dug the required trench and installed the conduit and pull rope according to their specs. Doing this allowed us to put the line in the most optimal location related to the property and the new building and any other infrastructure planned:

When we completed our digging and conduit installation, then Northern Lights came out to install and energize the service change:

In our next blog entry, I will cover some of the details of the foundation, foundation waterproofing and framing.