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  • Don Wolter

Once upon a time, in a semi-rural county in Western Washington...

Updated: Mar 10, 2018

...there was a beautiful equestrian property. This property had a large, modern farm-style home, a wonderful open sand riding arena, fenced pasture areas, a small seasonal creek, beautiful wooded areas at the perimeter, and a not-so-great rundown barn and shed row, that needed replacement for a growing number of horses.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com


The owners had been content for several years after the purchase of this great property, but it was now time to do something about the barn. It all seemed simple enough: contact a good builder, get some plans together, apply for a permit and build a great new barn. However, the reality of what it actually took to get through the permitting process was completely different than the owner anticipated.


How to Evaluate Your Rural Property for Building or Major Remodeling


Step 1 Research Your Property

In King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, you begin by going to the Parcel Viewer. (King County Parcel Viewer, enter property address, click on Related Resources District Report at bottom of page and go through each link:)

· eReal Property Report – check square footages and all info.

· Quarter Section Map – Find your site and look for any easements.

· Permit Application Reports – Have all structures, drives and arenas been permitted?

· Scanned Images of Surveys – See what added information you can get.

· Septic System As-built – Order a copy of your septic system. The county will evaluate your system as part of the review process.

· IMap to this Property – Look at aerial photos starting at 2000. Have additions or changes occurred? 2015 is the latest King County aerial. Google Earth will give you the latest.


Step 2 Review Your Plans with the county or a knowledgeable professional.

· Let them help outline the permitting process and review any challenges your property may have.

· What will take the average owner weeks to research and lay out will take an experienced architect or design professional just days, if not hours, to complete. Architects, specifically, have expertise in all phases of design, including feasibility studies, site design, barn and building design, permitting, budgeting, and ensuring everything is constructed correctly and per plans. They also can coordinate any required engineering.

Step 3 If you proceed with building plans

1. In King County, order a CAD (Critical Area Designation). This is a simple form that requires a fee of approximately $700.00. The county will visit your site and give you a report. This process will take anywhere from 2-4 months and will show the critical and sensitive areas and the required setbacks.

2. Evaluate Site issues that will impact the permit process before starting any design work.

Issues to look for:

A. Any special easements or setbacks

B. Location and condition of septic system

C. Location and quality of on-site wells

D. Any steep slope areas and setbacks

E. Streams or even seasonal drainage ways should be evaluated for classification, buffers and building setbacks. A professional biologist may need to be involved.

F. Are there existing wetlands? The CAD should identify potential wetlands and a biologist may need to confirm and map the wetland edge.

G. Non-permitted buildings or impervious areas such as gravel areas, driveways and arenas will need to be evaluated and permitted.


1.) Current Code will be applied to these areas and if the impervious area is over 2,000 sq.

ft.,the 2016 Drainage Code will apply and a civil engineer may need to be involved.


2.) If the non-permitted impervious areas or buildings are in sensitive area setbacks, they may

need to be moved or mitigated. The mitigation process can be expensive and lengthy and

should be avoided if possible.


3.) Involve your builder or architect early in the process and determine who is the project lead –

owner, builder, or architect and have them report progress on a regular basis.


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