Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MHT Deadline Redux

Okay, so it's been 45 days since the last deadline to hand our plans in to the Maryland Historical Trust, so that means it's time to do it again.  We've spent the last two weeks going over our previous, unsuccessful application, editing our words, adding stuff they wanted us to add, removing stuff they didn't like.  Gone is any mention of ripping out the kitchen ceiling.  Added in is a stipulation promising not to get rid of the wall to the left of the kitchen doorway.  Still in is my bedroom closet, which they didn't like, although we were pretty much assured it wouldn't stand in the way of approval.  Iffy is our plan for exterior insulation: they wanted us to rip off all the exterior shingles and apply a vapor barrier, but they thought the shingles were going to be removed anyway.  Now that they know we're only replacing the few shingles that went bad, we're hoping they're going to be okay with blow-in insulation from the inside.

But here's the kicker: we've removed any mention of the roof.  Argh.  They asked us to explain how we were going to insulate the roof without raising its profile more than a few inches.  At the walk-through, Rory said that wouldn't be an issue.  They asked for a mock-up of what he planned to do-- first one made of plywood, but later saying we could just send an architectural drawing.  So last night, less than 24 hours before we have to drive out to Crownsville to deliver the application, he calls us and says it's not do-able, and that we should just fill out the form however we like, because there's no way to get the profile to go up less than five or six inches.  Our stomachs dropped like we were on a bad roller coaster.

We spent the entire morning texting, emailing, and talking to Rory; leaving messages for and finally talking to Renee at MHT; printing and reprinting new versions of our application; debating what to do about the roof.  All the while, Abby delivered Isaac to school, then sat outside my office for a while in the car with Lola, then spent the whole morning at McDonald's so Lola could play on the playground while Abby figured out the application.  Oh, and I was at work.  Needless to say, we were both stressed out.  Did I mention Abby had the beginnings of a migraine?

Finally, after noon, Renee called and told us we should submit the application sans roof, and write a note alongside our submission noting we weren't eschewing talking about the roof altogether, but rather needed another few weeks to discuss our options.  I find myself constantly saying "fingers crossed" about this project, but our fingers are definitely crossed now, because we were basically told if we did everything according to plan this time around, we would be fine.  Now?  Who knows?  Regardless, Abby drove the hour back out to Crownsville, headache and Lola and all, got lost along the way, but finally delivered the packet.  Luckily, on the way home her medication kicked in and her head felt good enough that she was able to pick Isaac up after school and catch a play date at the zoo.  I think we're both going to have a bit more Kahlua with our ice cream tonight than we usually do...

So that's that.  Now we wait.  The Easement Board meets next Tuesday, after which we should hopefully get a nice, quick answer from our friends Amy and Renee, regardless of how long we have to wait for the paper answer.  We'll have to have a serious conversation with Rory about the roof, because I don't know that I want to have absolutely no insulation in my roof, and I don't know that I want this situation to happen again where we have all our ducks in a row, yet are held back at the last minute by what seems to have been a miscommunication we could/should have resolved at least a week ago.  As Abby drove off this morning from my office, en route to McDonald's in Falls Church, we looked at each other and said "Here we go again."  Hopefully, this time, this will be one of the bigger bumps in the road.  (After all, we're just now getting the electric upgrade on our current house that we were permitted for back in 2004.  No one can accuse PEPCO of jumping the gun, that's for sure...)  *sigh*

Friday, September 16, 2011

Clarifications and Chagrin

It's been some time since we received word from Maryland that our plans weren't good enough, but today I managed to talk to one of our main points of contact up in Crownsville, Renee.  I wanted to see if she could clarify some of the points the board put in one-huge-paragraph of a letter, and she did so quite nicely.  I relayed the information to my dear wife, with all her Southern sensibilites, on the phone from work, and she unloosed a cute little tirade of unpublishable words.  Not aimed at Renee, mind you, but at the situation.  (She actually really liked Renee when they met on Monday.  Really!)  Here's why she's not happy:

  1. We will not be allowed to raise the ceiling in the kitchen, which at my last measurement was about, oh, 4 1/2 feet tall.  And we have to keep it beadboard, which is not exactly the look we were going for.  Apparently, one of the bungalowish things about any bungalow is its abundance of porches.  It's not our fault that the Army enclosed the porch, and they're fine with us taking the already enclosed porch and making it into a kitchen.  But since the porch ceiling is still there, we've gotta keep it as is.  I guess this was one of the main objections of the board to our application.  It's also one of Abby's main problems with the house.  Hmm...
  2. You see the boards under the ripped drywall?  THAT's what they want us to keep as our kitchen ceiling, rather than having the gorgeous exposable beams that are directly above them and continue into the Great Room.
  3. We will not be allowed to make the doorway into the kitchen into a wide opening.  We will be able to widen the doorway and get rid of the door itself, but wall has to remain on both sides.  Again, because of the original this-is-inside-and-that-is-outside nature of the rooms.  That we can both deal with, although I think it'll look silly.
    This is the doorway they will only let us expand, and not remove.
    And above it are the beautiful beams they don't want us to expose.
  5. We can raise the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom.  Huzzah!  If the kitchen's clearance is 4 1/2 feet, the bathroom's is just over a yard.  They would rather we not have the bedroom closet jut into the Great Room.  Yeah, so would I, but I would also like a closet.  I guess this is not a make-or-break section of the plan, so if we leave it in the next application (which we will), and it's the only problem, then they'll either say okay begrudgingly or just make the approval conditional on us getting rid of or shrinking the closet.  Then I'll just hang all my clothes on a hook outside the house or something, I guess.  That'd be "very bungalow," no?
  6. They do not care about our paint colors or tile colors, at least at this point.  Too bad, because Abby has them pretty much all picked out.  Cabinet facing too, after a lucky trip to a specialty cabinet place in Hyattsville yesterday that was fortuitously located across the street from a brand new Burger Delite-- the best place for Carolina Barbecue outside of NC.
  7. The board wanted us to put together a "mock-up" of what our roof will look like.  Puzzlement ensued.  Did they want us to do a third-grade diorama?  No, actually, Renee clarified, just some architectural drawings of a cross section of how the new roof won't make the dormer look weird.  That we (and Mohamed) can deal with.
So it shouldn't be that bad.  We have 11 more days until the second round of applications is due.  No doubt we'll be working on it a lot this weekend, and hopefully will have it done by Monday so we can pass it to Rory.  Renee repeatedly mentioned to me that she and Amy were reminding the board that our financers are not too happy about the work not having started.  That said, I made sure to email Patty (our financer) and Sheyy (our guy from FHA) to let them know we had another 45-day wait ahead of us.  I'm sure they're both thrilled...

From everything Renee said, it sounds like the people on the board (who are all specialists of one kind or another-- architects, historians, bungalowists...) are just trying to get things to be perfect.  That said, a comment I received on my last post from Paul, a neighbor I haven't met yet (Hi Paul!) echoes a sentiment I'm sure is shared not only by us and our neighbors but by Renee and Amy as well: that the heretofore moniker "Save our Seminary" should be altered to be "Finish our Seminary!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's a No-Go For Now

I just got off the phone with Amy at MHT, who delivered the frustrating news: We won't be able to start work on the Bungalow for at least another 45 days.  She said our application has been rated as “Incomplete” (a technical term) and has to be resubmitted for the next cycle before any work can be done.  She seemed pretty frustrated as well, and said our application was "really good," and “really close” to being accepted with conditions, as we had hoped would happen.  However, it’s a no-go for now.

Apparently, the main issue in our not getting a conditional acceptance may have been that so few of the board members had ever been in the house.  Therefore, they weren’t able to picture what we meant by a lot of the changes, even with drawings and pictures, and even with explanations from those who had been there.  We're going to fix that on Monday: Abby and Rory are going to meet the board at the house for a walk-through.  Afterwards, we can work on resubmitting the same exact application we put in last time, but with edits, additions, tweaks, and other such helpful ways to get this party started. *sigh*

The news is not all bad: I asked her about several of our main concerns, and she said that the board has absolutely no problem with us moving the kitchen upstairs (yay), and no problem with the excavation under the porch (double yay).  Their only two concerns, apparently, are the roof and that damn wall between the dining room and the kitchen.  For the roof, it is her understanding that as long as we are there to explain exactly how we will maintain the current slope with the 2-inch rise we propose due to the need for insulation, they’ll be happy.  As for the wall, they have apparently given us recommendations as to how we might approach it without changing the authenticity of the great room.  She will mail the packet of recommendations to us today, but will also email me an electronic version of it for us to look at, so we will have something to occupy our time over the next few evenings.

So our timeline now has been pushed back by 45 days.  The next board meeting is on October 4, and the deadline for submission of a new application is September 27.  However, she did mention we might want to put information into the packet about specifics such as paint and tile preferences, so we can start taking those steps and making those decisions now.  We’ve already started making some of those decisions-- we went last weekend on a Lowe's date, and will have no issue attempting to do the same this weekend, albeit with kids in tow.  Once we make decisions, I'll post them here on the blog for you to ooh and aah over (and, I'm sure, to try to convince us to go in other directions...).