The inspector stopped by tonight to have us finish signing some permits for a fire number and driveway. While he was here we grilled him a bit more on the sanitation permit (which is required before you can even think about getting the big guy: the building permit). The sanitation permit will be given when we have demonstrated through measurements and design that our water and waste system is valid. Since we are going with a non-standard form of sanitation (pit privy) we are not allowed to have any piping going into or coming out of the house. That means no pipe connecting the well to our faucets. No leech field. No reservoir. Because we don’t want to defecate in perfectly good drinking water, we aren’t allowed to have ANY perfectly good drinking water hooked up to the house. I guess they’re afraid that we’ll fill our sawdust potty with water, thus making sewage? Or maybe that we’ll flush solids down into the leech field and clog everything up? Who knows. It’s ridiculous, especially when one views the International Building Code, which clearly states that a sanitary system without a big, expensive septic tank and pretty porcelain thrones is perfectly legal.
So anyway, we grilled him on the sanitation code to see what we could and could not get away with until the final building inspection. Basically it looks like we’ll be stuck hauling buckets of water in and out of the house. Clean water in, grey water out. Showers? Not unless we feel like filling up a high bladder ourselves and saving up all the water that runs down in a big bin to be emptied outside. Small, water-conserving baths and sponge baths sound like they’ll become routine. I think I could live like that for a little while – many other people have done it and survived to tell the tale.
But then we show him our plans on Google SketchUp – an amazing program that let us create very detailed 3d renderings of the floor plan, framing, terrain, and complete building. He asks about the square footage. We tell him 600 plus the loft. That was when the most devastating bombshell of all hit. The Township where we are building requires a minimum square footage of 1000 square feet for a single story, single family dwelling or 1300 square feet for a two story single family dwelling with at least 900 of the square footage on the ground floor. That’s HUGE. We’ve done that before. We hated it. The whole reason we want to build this small is because we DON’T want the McMansions that everyone likes building these days. We DON’T want to pay $160,000 over the life of a mortgage for a house that we could have built on our own for $40,000. We DON’T want to be a slave to high property taxes that come with huge buildings. We DON’T want to have to heat/maintain/clean more home than we use. We’re in a 800 sq ft apartment right now and we only use about half the space. Seriously.
So this is a huge snag. He (the building inspector) sounds like he really wants to hear more about this lifestyle we’re chosing, but his hands are tied. We will need to apply for a variance. Each variance is $250, and must be accompanied by a ton of information: specs, drawings, measurements, precedence, and above all else hardship. We have to prove to a board committee that we cannot comply with the code. Well we feel like we have some solid reasons for our choices, but we’re not so sure a committee of strangers are going to hop on board. After all, it took us ten years to get to where we are comfortable with such alternative methods of living.
So… now we have to really get cracking on the plans. Every little minute detail must be planned. Every source we have ever taken information from must be recorded and put into some sort of easy to understand presentation. If any of my readers have ever fought against a municipal restriction and won, I would love to hear about the experience. Heck, even if you lost you might provide some insight to us.
Thanks for reading. Wish us luck!