We Learn What We Need to Get Approved
I was not looking forward to going before the planning board. Ever since I started this project I had heard nothing but bad things about them. The proceedings would take months and months, they would make you put in a sidewalk (a sidewalk to where?), throw crazy regulations at you, and tear your plans apart for the smallest nitpicking reason. So with some trepidation we arranged an informal meeting with the planning board.
An informal meeting is a private get together with one or more planning board members to give them a broad overview of what you wish to accomplish. The planning board representatives then pose some questions to more precisely define what kind of project you have in mind. After this two way exchange of ideas had been accomplished we were told what we had to do to make a formal proposal to the town; the forms required and the steps to go through before we could schedule our first official meeting with the board. Well, that didn’t go too bad, the attitude in the meeting was very positive and so I left feeling positive about the direction of things.
To the Drawing Board
Now we had to go back and do our homework. Although I had drawn out (numerous) floor plans, the board wanted a full description of what we had planned; what the building looked like, what colors, what colors for trim!, what kind of landscaping, the placement of trees and bushes, where and how many parking spots, where the dumpster would be located, and on and on.
I knew what I wanted inside the hospital- I knew what rooms I needed, though getting the right floor plan was a tedious job. X-ray for instance should be near surgery and treatment so patients could quickly be wheeled back and forth. X-ray should also be near the exam rooms as pets often went straight from an exam room to x-ray. But exam rooms should not be next to surgery (for sterility) or treatment (for noise and odor control). Isolation should be “isolated” but not hidden away because you needed to have staff keep an eye on patients in isolation. How do you make a compromise that fits your needs? It took me weeks to get a floor plan that I was happy with.floor pdf
At the same time Paul Tirums my architect/engineer was hard at work on the plans for the building and site. There were many code requirements that I had no clue about; how many parking spots were required, how many handicapped sites, how high the building could be, how far from the septic, how far from the corner and side lots. Seemed like so many nit picking tedious things. But when I really took a good look at it I realized that what seemed like useless regulation also prevented my neighbor from putting his air conditioning compressor five feet from my bedroom wall. So these regulations are important and actually make sense.
Day of Reckoning
So here we were, Paul Tirums and myself at 7PM on a Wednesday night in front of the entire planning board. We came equipped with a stack of printed plans for the board to review. We were ready for their questions…bring it on!
Speak Up Son
The meeting was not at all what I expected. Right after the architect described the project, the type of building, the size, etc., I was asked to address the board and describe it in my own words. No one told me that I would be asked to speak! Now I don’t have trouble speaking in front of a group, I do it all the time. But when I do that I make sure that I’ve prepared. I was not prepared. Michael Dupree (the chairman of the board) said please, describe the project. And all I could do is mumble “I’m building a veterinary hospital, like the one I’ve had in the shopping center for the past 35 years.” Could you be more specific? Mumble, mumble, mumble, “Well I’ll be seeing dogs, cats and exotic animals and treat their maladies.” What more could I say? I was kind of embarrassed that all I could come up with was a very lame description of what the project would be like.
Words of Encouragement
My “great oratory” was followed by a round of questions from the board. Can you show us samples of the colors, what kind of landscaping, show us a sketch of the building design. Listening to the questions I came to realize that instead of wanting to stifle business (as I had been warned by a few people) the planning board was looking out for the long term interests of our town. They have a picture in their minds (and in the master plan) that state what look we should aim for in developing Hyde Park. And before they give the OK for any project it needed to fit into the historic nature of our town. This was their last chance to make sure something that clashed with our town’s appearance didn’t get by. Many of us who’ve lived here a long time can remember the pumpkin orange Video Treats awning that somehow was allowed and stuck out like a sore thumb when you drove through the town. Under this board that wouldn’t happen again. Finally, the questions were over and we were scheduled for another meeting where the public would be allowed to comment about our project.
But we weren’t finished yet. To my surprise and delight each of the board members made a comment. “Thank you for making Hyde Park a better town”, “Thank you for keeping your business in Hyde Park”, “Thank you for improving the property you bought”, “Thank you for helping beautify our town.” I was touched. This outpouring of support for my project was not what I had expected. I went home very encouraged.
Time Passes Quickly When You’re Having Fun
I was thrilled that the meeting went so well. Now I could see light at the end of the tunnel. We’d quickly get all our approvals and the hospital would rapidly go up and we’d move in during the summer. Well, that didn’t happen! Everyone had to have their say before we could be approved. The Dutchess County Health Department (water and sewer), the DC Wastewater authority (water too!), the state highway department, not to mention the town zoning department, building department and who knows what else. So it dragged on. March became April, April became May, spring became summer and all I had was a weed covered property that I had sunk quite a bit of money into. Every morning and every evening when I drove from my house in Staatsburg to the office in Hyde Park my heart sank and my blood pressure rose as I saw nothing going on. I’ve been telling every client who asked “When?” that it would be “next week, I’m sure.” Well it wasn’t “next week” or the week after that. I wasn’t having fun and yet time WAS passing quickly.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The local officials were very sympathetic. They saw we had done everything by the book, had dotted every i, crossed every t and still it dragged on. They wanted the project to get started almost as much as I did. So, behind the scenes they tried to help us in every way they could to move the process along. And then finally- we were done. All the paperwork was finished, all the right signatures were in the right place and WE NOW HAVE A BUILDING PERMIT! This week, as you pass the site look for our crew putting in the forms in preparation for pouring the foundation. The blog entries from now on will be a “blow by blow” description with pictures of the construction process as we FINALLY get going. Stay tuned.