Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Little Win, Big Loss

Yesterday, we got two pieces of news about the house.  The first was great, and set off a nice little wave of emails.  The second was not, and set of a torrent of emails and phone calls and hopefully-not-so-mean-spirited-in-retrospect voicemails.  Needless to say, I had a lot to write about last night when I got home.  But instead, my iTunes decided to crap out on me, and I spent the end of my evening kvetching at the computer screen at the loss of 30 months worth of music (again).  Now, the next day, I can bring you, with a much clearer head, the events of the last 24 hours as pertains to our house.  And hopefully I can do so without sounding like a sailor.  (Or Abby playing Taboo.)

Our Little Win

Notice the two different slopes, and different shingles.

Our roofing plan was approved by Maryland!  It took two weeks, but we finally received word the Maryland Historical Trust approved our plans to remove the shingles, put in insulation, and put up new shingles.  That was the last obstacle of the main plan for the house to have to go through the State.  Now all we have to do is forward the exact product info for the two types of shingles we need to Amy at MHT, and she can make sure they're kosher-- but most importantly, there will be no "process" involved.  Any tweakage can be just that-- tweakage-- with no need for formal applications, 45-day processes, and the like.  We've already got the first of the two shingle choices made (slate-gray shingles from Lowe's), and Rory's checking with our roofer to find out the specs of the others.  The reason we need two different kinds of shingles is that the roof has two different slopes.  The main slope can have regular shingles, but the porch roof's slope is too flat for regular shingles; standing snow would seep under them and deteriorate everything pretty rapidly.

Our proposed shingles
for the main part of the roof
Anyhow, with that victory, I called Montgomery County to ask whether they needed anything more than a copy of the email from the State saying our roof was okay, in order to complete our application Abby had dropped off back on November 15.  (Remember that date.)  I had to leave a message, so I wrote an email as well, just to cover my tracks.  On my way back from the gym, I noticed I had a voicemail on my cell from the County, so I called them back.  Josh, the guy working with the Montgomery County's Historical Preservation Office said we didn't need to send anything else, but, um, there was an issue.

Our Big Loss

You see, I had spoken with Josh a few weeks ago.  He was the one who alerted me to the fact we needed to have our County Historical Area Work Permit application in by November 15.  He was very nice on the phone a few weeks ago, and humored me as I went step by step down all of the things we needed to do, because I wanted to make sure we got this all done correctly.  He was very nice on the phone yesterday, too, except that he said, very apologetically, that someone in the permitting office screwed up.  Apparently, even though Abby hand delivered the application on November 15, right after she dropped Isaac off at school in the morning, someone at the permitting office decided to sit on it for a whole WEEK before even stamping it as having been accepted.  Our application, stamped "November 22," was not on the docket for the December 7 meeting.  (No matter that we were in North Carolina starting Novmeber 19.)  We would have to wait for the December 21 meeting.  That means, instead of being approved by the County and getting all the permits by about December 10, and starting work before Christmas, we now would be lucky to get permits before the New Year.

Gregory not happy.

The course of events over the next half hour or so remains blurry to me.  I know I tried to stay as calm as possible on the phone with Josh.  I know I received a phone call from Abby, who was going to pick me up from work on the way to get something someone in Falls Church had put on Craigslist, and I think I swore at (with?) her.  I know I called the woman in charge of the permit office and, I hope very politely, told her voicemail her office had screwed up and now my house wouldn't have a roof before it started to snow.  I know I hung up on the voicemail and proceeded to send an email to her saying the same thing, copied to Rory and Abby and Josh.  I know I left the office in a daze, or in a huff, or maybe both, and had what probably looked like an argument with my wife in the street in front of my office, but was really a big bitch session between the two of us (with the doors closed so the kids couldn't listen in).

Then we went home and had pie.  That made things a bit better, until the aforementioned iTunes debacle.

Silver Lining?

So where that leaves us right now is with an approved roof plan, but shingles left to be approved by MHT staff; with an accepted addendum to our application, but an application that won't be considered until nearly Christmas; and with the distinct possibility that someone in the permit office will have cost us nearly a month of work-- two weeks in meeting postponement, and then having to work around the schedules of government offices and contractors during the holidays.  But there's a slight, possible silver lining: Josh said there's a possibility the roof work might not be viewed as historic by the County, which means we wouldn't have to wait for their okay to start work on the roof at all; we'd just have to get the State okay and the County permits, which theoretically could both take only days.  That said, I'm pretty sick of thinking in terms of theoretical days, so I'll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Last Submission. We Hope.

Well, today was the day.  The day we submitted what we hope will be the last application necessary before being able to start work on the house.  It was for the Montgomery County Historical Area Work Permit, and it's a three-plus-week-process that started today with the submission.  Over the next three weeks, Montgomery County's planners will pore over our submission, make it all pretty, and have it ready for their December 7 meeting.  If all goes as we hope that day, we'll have an afternoon of running things around and getting stamps and whatnot, then we can proceed as planned.  I keep thinking to myself: "Remember, at the end of this all, they're giving you a lot of money back for filling out these mandatory forms.  And it'll all be worth it."  Mantra helps, sometimes.

This application wasn't too different from the state forms, other than it was a form we actually had to print out and write on with a pen, rather than typing it out online.  And there were spelling errors-- I don't mean that we made, I mean written on the official form!  We had to show them our plat, give them the contact information for everyone whose property abuts ours, take pictures of the house from an angle indicative of how each of those properties views us, et cetera.  It's only for the exterior, but I included everything -- interior and systems included -- just to make sure we didn't forget anything.  I spoke to Scott with the County, and he said there's no problem with including too much.  So it's all there.  And now we wait.

We also are waiting for word back from Maryland on our roof application, which we submitted last week, and which was debated at yesterday's Historical Trust board meeting.  Theoretically, it should go well, because we went with materials they recommended.  Okay, they couldn't "recommend" materials, since they're a government entity and they're not allowed to do that.  But they strongly hinted that the way we should go was in one direction, and that was exactly what we chose.  If only they could have told us that one cycle ago...  Regardless, we are waiting on that too, and the county has been nice enough to allow us to submit anything we get back from the state between now and December 7 as an addendum to the packet.  So that means more running around by Abby and Lola, who have already driven out to Crownsville three times (about an hour each way) to drop off materials for the state, and did a run to Rockville this morning (about 45 minutes each way) to drop off the county stuff.  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.

By the time the county has its meeting, we'll have owned the house for more than 160 days without being able to touch it.  I haven't been there in more than a month, because, well, what would I do there?  Bonnie with Save Our Seminary was nice enough to bring by the house's original exterior lighting, which was saved when it looked like it might just fall down (and maybe bring the house with it?) a while back-- it'd be really nice to see that.  But for the moment, I think going up there's more annoying than anything else, just because I know there's nothing I can do.

So I'm doing other stuff, like reading the community listserve, where the current issue is whether people should have their porch lights on at night.  (Sorry folks, but I was raised by Chuck Wahl, and therefore my goal is to have the brightest porch lights possible.  Plus, as a security professional, I know darn well you don't want to be the darkest house on the block.)  I can't wait until mundane stuff like that is the big news of the day.  What was that mantra again?  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.  It'll all be worth it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Progress and Plodding

So it's been nearly a month since my last post.  That about sums up how much progress we've had in that time.  *Opening Sigh*

The last time I wrote, we had just gotten the official news that we passed inspection for Maryland Historical Trust's requirements, for everything except our roof.  We were on our way!  Well, not so much.  That was the last major step, but alas, it was not the last actual step.  Historical permitting is just the opposite of a sporting team in the playoffs: once you win at Nationals, then at States, you have to go to Districts.  For us, that means we still have to get the blessing of Montgomery County.  And what do you know: they have a periodic process just like Maryland does.  So we have to submit a new set of paperwork, detailing everything we detailed for Maryland, and have it ready by November 16, in order for them to gather on December 7 to meet and discuss it.  Well, we don't have to detail everything-- actually, just the exterior changes.

It's all just so frustrating.  But then I have to calm myself with the understanding that, when it's all over with, there's a reason for all of this paperwork.  Sure, it's so all the historical homes remain consistent with their roots blah blah blah blah...  But it's also because these organizations are going to give us MONEY.  When all is said and done, Maryland will give us back 10% on everything we spent to make the house livable-- for instance, redoing the plumbing and the electric, but not necessarily on upgrading the tiles; and Montgomery County will give us back 20% on everything we spent to bring the exterior up to historical standards-- again, on replacing rotted porch wood and taking lead paint off the shingles, but not on landscaping or buying a new American flag for the pole up top.  So it's all gonna be good.  But for now, it's supremely frustrating.

However, the one good thing about having to wait for the Montgomery County meeting is that today is Maryland's deadline for their next meeting, which just happens to be next Tuesday, November 15.  (Are you writing this all down?)  In a nutshell, since Rory and Mohamed finished the plans for the roof, we submitted them today, will hopefully have them okayed next Tuesday, and then can turn around and submit them with the entire already-approved plan on Wednesday to the County.  Therefore, MontCo's December 7 meeting may very well be the final hurdle for the historical stuff.  And we've been told that the County hardly ever says no to plans that have already been approved by the State.  So, one more month.  Hence the sighing.

After that, it's just running to two places in Montgomery County to get the plans stamped (which I've been assured takes hours, not days) and to get the permits.  Theoretically, we could have work starting by the beginning of the week before Christmas.  But I'm not going to plan on anything happening until after the New Year, just because I don't want to be disappointed again.  That means, basically, we will have owned the house for seven full months before we were legally able to do a thing.  Maybe.

I say "maybe," because, although I haven't checked, I'm pretty sure that once the State and the County say we can do certain things, we can go ahead and do certain things, even without the permit.  Certain things like, say, tearing down all the paneling in the basement, or pulling down drywall on walls that are getting the ax.  We'll see, because that will be a lovely day.

In the meantime, we've been window shopping.  We think we've found a dining room table, at CB2.  Abby's been looking at dining room chandeliers, and she's focusing in on simple, modern ones with Edison bulbs (the ones where you just have a bare bulb with an exaggerated filament).  We're narrowing down our choices on bathroom cabinetry-- we're going to have cabinets that are furniture, rather than built-ins-- and have discovered we pretty much like the second-cheapest kitchen cabinets at every store, from Home Depot to Lowe's to IKEA.  We've picked out our bathroom tile and wood flooring already, we think, and have chosen the shingles for the roof-- dark gray, mottled shingles that resemble slate.  Once things are finalized, I'll put pics up of our choices for you all to denigrate, er, I mean, enjoy. :)  In the meantime, though, Abby's driving to Crownsville again to drop off our roofing application to MHT, and after that, we wait. *Closing Sigh*