We've got a gorgeous 1.4 acre rolling and treed lot on newly paved Goddard Court. There is plenty of topography to build a walkout lower level and create a spectacular landscape or just leave much of the lot natural. We can support just about any type and size house you could dream of and we are ready to show you our available plans or start from scratch with one of our award winning architects to design your new dream home. Oh and did we mention it's in Bloomfield Hills School District? What are you waiting for?
...that we've got a new home site on the horizon. Beautiful lake front property, check. We're still figuring out all the details but we couldn't wait to share the news. Check back for more details!
Today was the day to install curbs at Long Lake Pines. Usually this is done with a machine that extrudes the curbs as it crawls along on the stone subgrade. A one or two man operation. Due to the small size of our job we got HAND CRAFTED CURBS formed on the job and hand finished by real cement masons!
ALL IN A DAY'S WORK FOR THESE FINE CRAFTSMEN. THANKS GENTLEMEN!
Conventional wisdom is that we don't dig basements in the winter. That is mostly because it can be really hard and expensive to dig in the frozen ground. However, when we have a cold winter with a lot of snow cover like we did this year, the snow and vegetation on a lot that has not been disturbed acts as an insulating blanket and minimizes frost penetration into the ground.
Compare this to our roads that are cleared and salted when it snows and have no insulating blanket. The salt actually produces water by melting snow and ice. The heavy traffic drives the water through any cracks and holes in the road surface and helps the frost penetrate even deeper. This year the road commissions have reported frost depths as deep as 4 or 5 feet. This is deep enough to freeze some water mains and cause them to rupture. It also forces the pavement up, produces more cracks to allow more water in and further destroys the pavement giving rise to potholes.
So, in January, we had a building permit in hand for a house we really wanted to start and Russ and I were thinking - do we wait until May to dig or do we go for it? You may ask, why May? Well, that brings us back to potholes again. We need heavy equipment to dig the hole, move away any excess dirt, form the walls and lots of heavy cement trucks to bring in the concrete for the footings and walls. Pothole time is also Load Limit Time. As the roads start to thaw they really start breaking up so all counties place load restrictions on all but freeways and really well built "all weather" roads. These limits stay in force for 6 weeks or more meaning if they go in force in early to mid March they are not lifted and no heavy trucks can move with full loads until May!
Well, we decided to go for it and got commitments from our excavator and wall contractor to work quickly and we broke ground at the end of February. As we had suspected, the frost wasn't all that bad on our "insulated" lot. Of course it costs a little more because we need to put straw down to keep the bottom of the excavation from freezing and chloride is added to concrete to keep the water in the mix from freezing until the exothermic chemical reaction in the concrete starts which generates heat and allows the concrete to cure nicely even in cold weather.
What did we gain? Time and being able to get our carpenters going before everyone is competing for them, locking in lumber prices before demand and prices go up seasonally as warm weather returns. Most important, there is very little new home inventory so this strategy allowed is to put a product on the market that can realistically be delivered before the end of this year (and get all the outside work done by fall when weather will be a concern once again).
Did our calculated gamble pay off? Well, we took a deposit within a week of listing the house for sale and are proceeding to finalize our agreements with a buyer that would have preferred an existing home (remember that low inventory) but liked the fact that this one would shorten the process by 6 months or so for them.
Unfortunately, we can't do much about the potholes......
I am pleased to report that at their meeting tonight the Bloomfield Township Board unanimously approved our request to divide our land at 565 Long Lake Road into four parcels.
It took an extra board meeting as well as meetings with our neighbors and additional engineering studies, but the end result is a very nice site pan with 4 large (half acre) lots with really nice topography and trees. We will do our best to preserve these natural features and augment them with new landscape and beautiful architecture.
Now we can develop our architectural plans and theme, submit final engineering plans, secure various permits and if all goes well, start development in the first quarter and have building sites in spring.
We submitted our application to Bloomfield Township to split our 3 acre site into 4 parcels on July 17. It looks like this: While this seems pretty simple, a lot of work has gone into it. We should be getting feedback from Bloomfield Township pretty soon and at some point in the coming weeks we will have to attend a public hearing in front of the Township Board and they will vote whether to approve our plan. You may wonder why this is so regulated and time consuming. Keep in mind, this is about as simple a form of development as there is and it is still highly technical and complex!
So let’s digress for a little bit. Try and stay with me…
Land development is a whole different animal from home building. Historically, there have been mostly pure builders and there have been pure developers and some, like me, that have done both. This is probably because these two activities require very different skill sets. My dad and uncle were always pure builders – they bought finished lots with paved streets, sewer and water and gas and electric installed from developers and built and sold homes.
The developers they bought lots from would purchase vacant tracts of land in mostly suburban communities that had access to a paved road, sewer, water and other utilities and then apply to the city or township for permission to divide the land into parcels we call lots. Sometimes the land needed to be rezoned to allow the desired development or there would be issues with low swampy areas or large stands of trees. These needed to be identified by surveyors and engineers and the lots designed to minimize the impact on these resources. Developers need to have a vision for what the land will look like and how to best use what nature has provided to create an environment that people will want to live in. If they do this well, the builders will buy their lots and the customers will buy the homes the builders build.
Over the years development moved from the cities to the suburbs. In the cities the norm was to create a pattern of grid streets serving small lots with no trees or swampy areas (cut the trees and strip out the swamps and put nice sandy soil where the muck used to be). A park for recreation here and there and planting new trees along the new streets was the order of the day. Many developers tried to carry this same format to the suburbs and would seek out flat, fallow farmlands that suited this style. There being a limited supply of this, the next best thing became the clear cutting and flattening (called mass grading) of rolling parcels that were not suitable for farming or pasture.
An interesting thing happened on the way to the suburbs. The folks living in new suburban homes on the grid lots that were adjacent to these treed, rolling parcels kind of liked them and thought of them as an extension of their yards. They really did not like the idea of new lots and homes going there, ever. So these folks would go to meetings in the townships and cities and protest development proposals even if the property was zoned for development. The protests would revolve around various assertions that these new developments would cause environmental harm or just plain harm the environment. Cutting trees was bad in and of itself, filling swamps (now called wetlands) leveling hills or altering drainage patterns was an offense against nature. If this was going to happen somewhere, these folks would say, “Not In My Back Yard!” or NIMBY.
So the development process changed and required even more expertise and better planning and engineering and a lot more oversight by townships, villages and cities to assure the NIMBYs that if development was going to occur at all it would be done responsibly. One can take various political, moral or ethical positions on this subject but the developer simply needed to recognize that the playing field and the rules of the game had changed and then learn to deal with the new rules. Builders have similar challenges that they have to learn to deal with.
What is indisputable is that regulation and compliance in both development and building costs more than doing these activities unregulated. Is the result really better, or so much better it is worth the extra cost? As these costs rise, more people are excluded from the market or have to settle for a smaller lot or smaller, less fully featured home. These are questions that are a lot bigger and more complex than this blog.
At 565 Long Lake Road we will deal with the hand we have been dealt. We are on the front line of experiencing the effects of this increased regulation and oversight as issues arise nearly every day. Mostly, we just comply and add up the cost of compliance and roll it in to the cost of the lot or the home. And so it goes.
Well, thanks for listening. Hopefully, this discussion will help lend some perspective to future blogs when the expletives start flying…just kidding about the expletives part.
We decided to give it a name – Long Lake Pines – that we don’t think conflicts with any other developments. The street will be called Tall Pine Court provided the Fire Department approves – they need to make sure it won’t cause confusion with other street names in Bloomfield as well as other nearby cities and townships. If they determine it does then we will have to choose something else.
This is a concept plan that we have discussed with various officials of Bloomfield Township but like an opera it isn’t over until the ummmm, you know who, sings! In this case, the singer is the Township Board and they won’t take a vote on this until their planning and engineering staffs and perhaps outside consultants have had an opportunity to thoroughly review the very detailed survey information we will be submitting next week. If our surveyor and engineer did their jobs perfectly we could get the thumbs up from the township pretty quickly and be sent to the Board for a public hearing and vote within a couple of months. Let’s keep our fingers crossed but to use another old saw – we won’t hold our breath.