A House In A Field

A Walk In The Woods

We lost power in Freeport today.  (We’re about to change the name of this blog to “Adventures in Electricity.”)

We used the occasion to head over to Cove Road.  We walked our new survey and looked — one last time — at the feasibility of bringing our driveway/power across the field or through the woods on that side of the property.

No way.  There are remnants of old logging roads scattered throughout the woods that would work, but it’s just too far.  And any money saved versus running lines down Mast Landing would go into road building, dynamite and snow plowing.  Back to the original plan.

On a more positive note, it really is a spectacular property.  There are trails all through the forest, beautiful stone walls, and it’s far bigger than we ever imagined.

But isn’t it amazing that we’re 2,468 feet away from a $1.5+ billion business and our biggest challenge to date has been getting electricity?  In the year 2012.

I wonder if there are still TVA Rural electrification loans?

Three Options And A Plot Twist (The Britney Version)

First, the good news.  Central Maine Power (aka CMP) showed up today and one of the field engineers was wearing Bean Boots.  So we’ve got karma going for us.

From there, it got more complicated.  In order to make a two hour conversation even remotely tolerable, we’ll boil it down to three options and a plot twist :

  • Option A : This is the working plan.  We’d bring power from the corner of Torrey Hill Road down Mast Landing to the base of our driveway.  (sketched on the map below)  From there, we’d go underground up the driveway.  Easily the most expensive of the three options.  CMP suggested that we could go down the estuary side of the road and avoid a big tree trimming charge.  We’re not keen on that suggestion from an aesthetic perspective.
  • Option B :  We’d bring power underground across the field from Cove Road.  The bummer is that CMP requires that the lines be accessible from a road/driveway.  And  running a driveway down the field isn’t high on our list. (Also sketched on the map, but with a “woodsy” approach)  Definitely less expensive than Option A and saves the world from five more utility poles.
  •  Option C :  We call this one “Howdy neighbor!”  There’s a utility pole at the corner of Mast Landing and Cove Road.  CMP would run poles down Mast Landing to our driveway.  Underground from there.  Probably the cheapest option.  The bad news in this scenario?  We’d be running utility lines right across the nicest part of our view.  And while you can’t see it on this map, there’s a giant chestnut tree next to the existing pole, which — in the words of the CMP crew — would be the first thing to go.  Not sure if firing up a chainsaw is a good introduction to the neighborhood.

Bottom line — still planning on A., but we’ll admit that Option B. has its attractions.  We’d save money.  And as we’ve spent more time on the site, we’ve been amazed by the speed of cars down Mast Landing road.  Pulling out of our driveway on a dark night could redefine “adrenaline rush.”

Oh, and the plot twist?  After all that, CMP then told us that “we don’t own the utility poles on Torrey Hill Road.  Verizon/Fairpoint owns those.  You’ll have to call them to get your final answer.”

Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $100.  Get on the phone with Verizon.

Do it baby one more time…

Survey, Check…

Another item off the list.

One of the details to be completed before closing is a survey.  Our friends at the bank would like to make sure that we’re actually getting the land as promised in the sale.

Our realtor gave us a couple of surveyor suggestions a few weeks ago — one firm that had done work near the property, another based here in town.  The first firm took took three days to return our calls and redefined “expensive.”  The second firm told us that they were too busy to get the work done in time for closing.

The next morning we got another call from the 2nd firm — “I live here in town and would really like to be involved with this project.  I’ll get it done in time.”

Here’s a slightly altered copy of the draft survey.  We just removed a few details that need to be straightened out :

This Is Starting To Feel Like A Good Decision…

Just received this from another of the build/design contractors that we met with :

“Great choice- if there was an architect I would have placed on the top of the “Recommended” list, it would be Rob. He’s a great guy with a lot of talent.  I like his style for coastal maine dwellings. I hope things go well for you.
Please keep us on the short list, and I ‘ll look forward to seeing what he comes up with.
Happy Labor Day !”

And from another :

“Rob is one of the best.   I recommended him to design my aunt’s house.  It ended up working very well for them and was really nicely proportioned on outside as well.  If he still has old files it might be something to look at- with some modifications.  It may be more shingle style than the the farmhouse look you are shooting for however.

He is easy to work with as well.  I think this is a good choice and it allows you to go through the bid process which is the only way to know for sure that you are getting value for your money.  I also like the bid process because I usually win – I have a great team of people and run a pretty streamlined company.  I agree that rushing the project can be a mistake. having time to digest preliminary plans and really think about what you want is good.  Let me know if i can be of any help.  One possible solution to scheduling start date is to catch late winter window when the brutal night temps are over, but before they post the roads.  While we can ( and do ) start houses anytime of year,  if you don’t get your foundation in before christmas it can be better to wait for that late feb window.  It also puts the house out of sync with the huge backlog of starts all waiting for the posting to come down which speeds things up thru the whole project.”

Not only have these notes been reassuring in terms of our decision to hire Rob, but you’ve got to love the “…I also like the bid process because I usually win.”

“That was today?”

Central Maine Power kills me.  Today’s appointment was at 10:30 am.  Review the site, discuss options for getting power, etc.  We’d like to get a sense as to the financial commitment involved in getting electricity to the site before our due diligence period comes to an end.  So Debbie and our realtor took the morning off in order to meet with CMP.

And waited.  And waited some more.

45 minutes later when Debbie calls them — “Oh, that was scheduled for today?  How about next Thursday instead.”

Needless to say, we’re not happy campers, especially given the email that came a couple of hours later from our realtor :

“According to the extension signed we have till tomorrow Aug.31 st  for CMP due diligence inspection.  After that you lose your chance to back out of the contract due to cost of electricity specifically.

Do you want to request another signed extension for CMP from the buyers until after next Thursday?

The last contingency will be the appraisal on Sept 12. Under the contingency clause in the contract the appraisal must be satisfactory to the buyer.

Let me know what you would like to do.”


Bartol Field

On a better note, Rob just described our project as “Bartol Field.”

It’s got a nice ring to it.

Big Decision

After a long series of “Design/Build Contractor vs. Architect,” “Fall 2012 vs. Spring 2013,” “Design/Build Contractor A. vs. Design/Build Contractor B.”, etc. debates, we’ve made a decision to hire Rob Whitten of Whitten Architects.

We like Rob’s work and — more importantly — we liked Rob.  He showed up on time.  He went through our pre-work in painful detail and asked great questions.  Explained why the house should sit closer to one side of the field versus the other.  He had the same enthusiasm for our site and our new neighborhood that we do.

Tonight we sat at our kitchen table with Rob, talked about expectations, money and a timeline.  We’re both on vacation at the end of the month and then the project will start in earnest.  With any luck, we might even push to get power and a driveway to the site before snow flies.

And if that wasn’t enough, we received this note a few hours ago from one of the design/build contractors that was part of the initial process :

“I think you’ve made a great choice, truly. It is an exceptional lot and one very special  opportunity. Rob is in another league of capacity and expertise, his work is stunning.  I would be thrilled and actually more comfortable working with you and Rob as a team on the project if that comes to be. I have been fretting about how our modest design department could meet the challenge of scale and time frame.  Our capacity as builders is much greater.

I owe Rob a call and will express our interest in helping with pricing as the design develops if the need arises.”

So there you have it.  House comes off the market until next Spring.  And with any luck, work will then start on the new house.

This is not a sewer.

We were confused too.

Instead, this is apparently a pressure line.  We had high hopes when we found it on the main road — which is downhill — from the building lot.  (Very important for all things potty.)  But according to the local sewer district, this is unusable.

So we’re back to a septic system.  Welcome back, stone & pipe.

Grapefruit Spoons

“I didn’t finish architect school”

“I went back a few years ago, but did worse”

“Are there ticks in this field?”

“I charge more and take longer than an architect”

“I’m part marriage counselor, part designer.”

“I doubt you’ll be happy with 2,500 square feet.  My guess is that this will end up closer to 3,200.”

“I don’t like to bid out projects.  I’ve got a couple of builders that really ‘get’ me…”

“Are there ticks in this field?”

“We need time to work out where to put your grapefruit spoons.”

Those were just a few of the many gems from tonight’s site walk with the last person on our potential house designer list.  By all accounts, this person is incredibly talented.  Written up in all the fancy Home magazines.  A visionary.

And, unfortunately, crazy as a coot.   Compared to last week’s site visit with the Architect, it was also pretty clear that this person had only glanced — at best — at all of our preparation work.

I’ve now got a pretty good idea why it takes her twice as long…

“The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does” – Anonymous

Co-hosted a fund raiser tonight for a local environmental group.  Within five minutes of arriving, we were greeted with “I hear you’re buying that piece of land.  The local conservation group would love to talk to you.”  It’s especially worth noting that this is the second time the topic has come up and we’re still in the due diligence/P&S phase of the purchase, also known — ironically — as the “quiet period.”

We love this site and will do everything to preserve it’s “place” in the neighborhood.  It’s one of the reasons we’re buying it.  So I’m not sure why the conservation group is interested in the sale.

But my theory is that they want to give us a lot of money.  And I’m sticking with it.

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