Our post on Instagram last night was admittedly a little cryptic. We were having an extra frustrating day thanks to two discouraging duplex-related blows that came flying at us rapid-fire, in the span of a mere 10 hours. We’ve always tried to share the bad and the ugly along with the good – like talking about blowing a timeline or breaking a budget (or a ceramic animal). Or when we can’t find the water meter for a month or we fail our irrigation inspection in three different and spectacular ways).
Sometimes on “Bad News Day 1” you don’t really feel like getting into all of the nitty-gritty details because you’re still in that “repeatedly screaming WHYYYY?!?!?” phase of things. But you also don’t want to just pretend everything’s ok and post something chipper with lots of happy little emojis when you literally want to use that big punching hand emoji to punch that day in the face. So the best post you can muster is an honest and semi-grouchy paragraph about how renovations aren’t always easy, but in the scheme of things there’s still lots to be grateful for (like family, health, pets, tiny vases shaped like houses, and cookies). Note: many cookies were harmed in the making of our down-in-the-dumps evening last night.
But today is another day. Perspective usually comes after sleep (or just after some time in general) and we’re already feeling more clear-headed about the whole thing. And we have a Plan B that’s already rolling forward! Slowly rolling as if it’s riding a sloth, but it’s rolling. So we wanted to fill you all in. It all has to do with the beach duplex we’re renovating down the street from our pink beach house. Well, or at least TRYING to renovate.
We talked several weeks ago on our podcast (Episode #76) about some of the behind-the-scenes hurdles we had to clear before things could start moving, but those hurdles seem to just keep multiplying. Things that were simple when we did this last year for the pink house have become surprisingly complicated. For instance, when we were ready to begin work on the pink house we were able to pull a permit and begin right away. This time around we’ve been trying to pull our permit since November. And this place isn’t getting any safer/cleaner/less moldy.
The backstory, which we covered in podcast Episode #78, is that we’re proposing some exterior changes to the duplex, so the town’s Historic Review Board has to approve them. Most of it was small and basically a non-issue (tweaks to the front porch railing and stairs, for example). The biggest change was the roofline, because we were hoping to 1) raise the pitch of it and 2) add a dormer. The roof is effectively flat now, so increasing the slope will help it shed water better and allow us to put on a more affordable asphalt shingle roof (rather than an expensive and sometimes faulty rubber/metal flat roof). It would not only make it more reliable as a rental roof (definitely don’t want people calling to say there’s a leak during their beach week!) there are also hardly any other flat roofs in the historic district, so we thought they’d like that it would fit in better with the houses around it.
The dormer was really just for cuteness, since a lot of extremely similar homes within this historic town already have the exact roof pitch and dormer we were proposing.
We missed the November review board meeting by a hair, and the December one was postponed due to the holiday. They’re only held monthly, so yesterday, January 16th, was our first opportunity to present our changes and get approval. Our contractor Sean did the presenting for us, since he knows everyone and does this all the time (in fact, he was presenting two other projects last night along with ours). He’s a stickler for historical details and reassured us that he would never propose anything he didn’t expect to get approved. It’s a waste of his time and ours – delaying us both another month until we can re-propose it.
So imagine all of our collective shock when our plans got rejected. That’s right, we waited months for this meeting and then we got turned down.
He called us after the meeting with the bad news, and we could hear in his voice that he was surprised and frustrated too. Apparently, it had seemed like they were going to vote in our favor, but in the end… denied. Sean, John, and I were also frustrated (and extremely surprised! We never saw this coming!) because there are a lot of, in our humble opinions, more egregious additions and renovations around town that sailed through the approval process.
Who knows when and how they made that happen, but it felt like ours didn’t even register on the same scale – let alone rise to the level of getting rejected. We don’t fault the members of the board for trying to protect the integrity of the town (that’s their job!) and we can’t even claim to have a ton of historic architecture knowledge – but one thing is certain: we were only attempting to do something that several other recently-fixed-up homes in the historic district had already done without being rejected. And even Windex wouldn’t help.
So we said “Ok, Plan B – we’ll scrap the dormer!” But even by conceding that, we still have to wait over a month for their February 25th meeting to re-propose it. And then, assuming it’s approved, we have to wait 30 MORE days to be issued our permit thanks to a new waiting period they’ve just begun imposing this year. That means that we won’t have a permit in our hands to begin working on this house until March 25th. Almost April. For two people who have been itching to fix this poor house up since November, well, a five-month delay pretty much makes you feel like you’re taking crazy pills.
The whole no dormer thing makes us sad, but we can let it go. Sure it would’ve been cute, but it also added to our cost (so we’re killing two birds here!) and if the cutest thing the duplex has going for it in the end is a little dormer on the roof, whelp, we’ve got bigger problems. So we’re trying to shift our focus to all of the OTHER improvements we’ll get to make, both inside and out. Plus Plan B, which is a slightly less pitched roof without the dormer, sort of like this (pardon my bad iPhone coloring job) is still pretty charming – and we have every reason to believe it’ll sail through the approval process because they mentioned they’d favor that option in the meeting yesterday.
It’ll look approximately 58 times more adorable and lovely because we’re also widening the stairs, making the pillars more substantial/historically accurate (as well as the railing), going with white siding with mint green shutters, and restoring those lovely diamond grilled windows in the top middle of the house. And the entire board has no issue with any of that. So unless we are living in some sort of alternate reality (is this The Bad Place? You know we love this show) we should get approval in the next meeting, and finally get down to business in late March/early April. It’s just hard to smile about that when you’ve been waiting so long.
We also mentioned there was a financial blow, which was just a really (really really) high quote from a subcontractor that we didn’t expect at all. We found another sub who can do the job within our budget (and he’s great! we actually used him before!) but it took a few hours of panicked calls that we didn’t expect to be making, so the entire day sort of felt like a bad duplex omen from the start. It was like I was in that scene from Entrapment where Catherine Zeta Jones weaves her latex-covered body through a maze of lasers, except picture me in Minion footie pajamas tripping around and getting all caught up in blown deadlines and budget-breaking estimates.
This stuff definitely happens, and it’s not that we didn’t expect it. We expect curveballs. But we haven’t even started yet! Nary a piece of mildewed drywall nor a single foam ceiling tile has been removed. And considering we just spent the last year fixing up a house that’s ONE FREAKING HOUSE AWAY from this one and none of these early-on issues popped up, it just caught us off guard. But there’s that awesome quote by Veronica Dearly that I’m keeping in mind these days. Because guys, it’s totally true:
You can do hard things (but only after you’ve totally freaked out about them. Once you’ve done that you should be fine.)
Whelp, the good news is that we should be fine, because last night we officially freaked out. HA! It felt remarkably like when we couldn’t find the beach house’s water meter for a month. Except add a bunch of other months to that. And kill off a cute little dormer (R.I.P. Norma The Dormer – best said with a Boston accent). But today we’re back on track. Even better, we’re on a mission. We’re following some leads that there might be some way to get around the 60-day hold that we’re in right now – and already have some calls in to a few different people so feel free to hold your breath with us! And whenever we actually get this place is done (2027? will there be flying cars?), we think it’s gonna be PRETTY FREAKING GREAT. We’re so excited about all the plans and ideas we have baking for this duplex project of ours.
In closing, I will say that while it’s never fun to share your whiny-pants with the world, this is real. Real dollars. Real timelines. And real disappointment. So it just felt like it wouldn’t have been even a little bit authentic to act like all of this crap in the background wasn’t happening (or that it wasn’t affecting us). Because we are humans. Humans who, as it turns out, can eat a remarkable number of cookies while mourning a dormer and a woefully busted timeline.