A few months ago, I hired Sandrine Lacorie to design the web site, and I’m sure you’ll agree, she has done an amazing job.
I met with Bruce Evans, the architect, today. He had taken all the plans that Dawn and I spent countless hours on, threw them in the trash, and started from scratch. He’s very soft spoken and it’s hard to get a feel for where he’s coming from, but his plans seem fine, so it’s fine.
[In hindsight, our plans were ridiculous – corner spas in the boys’ room, a shower in the closet – but Bruce was very polite about not using our ideas. Firm, but polite.]
Lancaster County is having record rainfall this summer, and the mansion roof has a leak. The walls were wet and house was very damp. I’m just hoping everything holds together until October.
We hired David Christian & Associates to handle the county requirements. I do not like hiring people without meeting them, but unless I want to fly in every week, I don’t have much choice. Dave’s going to set up a “pre-app” meeting between the township and county to nail down the requirements. He sent me a “worst case” list of things they might require, along with some ballpark estimates, and my jaw dropped. Dave assured me this was worst case and we should be fine.
You probably won’t believe this, but the township did not have a building code. In fact, a lot of townships in Pennsylvania didn’t have one, so in 2004 the state forced all municipalities to adopt one. The problem is, when you’re dealing with an historic house, there isn’t much that is up to code – no insulation, the stairs are all wrong, the electric outlets are too low, etc. To make matters worse, our B&B fell under “commercial” regulations, so the doors had to swing out, we needed an enclosed stair tower, etc. In the past, you submitted a “variance request” (basically a list of everything that doesn’t meet code) to the state Labor & Industry board and they generally said, “Small B&B in an historic building, do whatever you want.” (And if they didn’t say that, then the State Preservation Office beat them up until they said that.)
With the new law, however, we no longer deal with L&I but with the local township, so today, the architect called them to ask about building code variances and was told two things: First, we hadn’t applied for our zoning permit yet, so they couldn’t talk about building codes; and second, they weren’t giving variances.
I called the township and was essentially told that the zoning commission had just given me permission to apply for a zoning permit! (Funny how nobody mentioned that at the zoning commission meeting…)
Gary Kopperman visited and looked at the furniture. Because of the roof leak, the humidity in the house was very high, and he recommended we move the furniture into a climate-controlled storage. I don’t want to do that, yet – the furniture has been fine for 20 years, it will be fine for a few more months.
First, the good news: I met with the Elizabeth Township zoning commission and they approved my petition for an exemption to operate a B&B in a rural zone.
Now, the bad news: I also met with the county engineer, and found out we’ve only just begun our regulatory hurdles. Apparently, any change of use is subject to a “land development plan” which has to be reviewed by the township and county. Mike, the engineer, thinks he can get that waived if we do a full survey, floodwater analysis, and address parking, access routes, and site line distances. All I keep thinking is – if that’s what they need to not do a land development plan, what does a full plan call for?!
I also keep thinking, why didn’t our contractor tell us about this last September?!