I am considering building a new home or remodeling. What do I do next?

When thinking about constructing a new building or renovating your facility, where do you begin? Start with your city’s Planning Department, sometimes called the Department of Community Development (if you are located in town) or the county’s Planning Department (if your property is located in an unincorporated area). They will let you know of any restrictions such as property setbacks, easements, water allocation or construction moratoriums. Entire towns, or designated areas within towns, may have design guidelines or review boards that may limit size, height, architectural style, exterior materials and colors. Monterey County has additional regulations governing ridgeline development (do not build on top of a hill silhouetted against the sky as viewed from a nearby road) and scenic easements (do not even think about building on a slope more than 30%).

If your property falls within the coastal zone, the commission will add their requirements (landscape and erosion control plans), fees and time extensions. Call Monterey County Planning to see how your plans may be affected. The coastal zone on the Central Coast averages five miles in width, but the most restrictive area is between the shoreline and the first public highway. The zone narrows to a few hundred feet near the Monterey Peninsula Country Club along 17 Mile Drive and widens to several miles approaching Highway 101 in Prunedale because of the inland marshes of the Elkhorn Slough.

When prepared by a licensed professional, the design and construction drawings will have been evaluated for compliance with the newly revised Uniform Building Code, plus national electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and fire codes, with state amendments to each. Prior to receiving a building permit, the Building Inspection Department in your city or county will check the plans and list those items requiring clarification on the drawings. Various agencies will list their concerns such as Public Works (roads and driveways), Health (septic system), Fire (sprinklers and fire truck access), and Planning again (site grading and landscaping). Some areas have special agencies or fees, such as water hookup (MPWMD) and traffic mitigation (Carmel Valley Road Fee Ordinance).

Because of my experience with local agencies in the cities and unicoporated areas of Monterey County, I can make the government processing quite tolerable. Rather than letting the restrictions stop your project, I will view these problems as a challenge to develop an optimal solution that will incorporate the regulations. Businesses and property owners will save themselves time and aggravation by using an architect to wend their way through the bureaucratic maze.

Published in The Home Edition, Carmel Publishing Co.

© 2008 Thomas J. Carleton