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Equipment Discussions >> Observatories

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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Permitting Lesson
      #5630252 - 01/18/13 04:57 PM Attachment (54 downloads)

I've been building my new 8x15' roll-off based on John Hicks' roll-off design and did everything by the book. Got the local Architectural Review Committee buy-off with the proper setbacks, went to the county building permit site and made sure I was compliant with all of the rules to build a non-permitted accessory structure. And proceeded right along and had my first roll-off test a couple of weekends ago with great success.

Well, then I decided that instead of running everything off of an extension cord, I might as well run electrical out to the the building since we'll have a swimming pool in the backyard in a few years and I can spend the money now and run a good-sized service that I can tap into later for the pool. In my county, if you're building a structure that has electrical, you need the whole structure permitted. But I figured since I was adding electrical to an existing structure that I'd be OK just to get the permit for the electrical.

So, I took my line diagrams and applications in, got my permit, went home, dug the trench, laid down the conduit, called in my inspection for the trench, the inspector comes out, and he asks, "is the building permitted?" I explained the sequence of events and he tells me he needs to check with the office.

Sure enough, he calls back that afternoon and says, "ya, you need the permit." Apparently I can run a panel attached to a pole right beside the observatory, but as soon as I run a permanent wire inside, the whole structure needs a permit. Doesn't matter how long the structure has been on the property. And doesn't matter if what they need to inspect is not even visible (like footings).

I then ask him if he can foresee any issues with the existing structure given I used an established design and over-engineered everything else myself. And, of course, he identifies the roll-off roof as something he has no experience with and would have the most contention with -- i.e. I need an engineering analysis done.

So, now my $100 electrical permit is going to cost another $100 for the building plus the fee of a structural engineer. And my first response from the engineer is "the design is very convoluted and how much money did I have in it for an engineering fee?" He's estimating the engineering is going to cost $1000.

At this point, I'm going to pay whatever engineering is required because I've already sunk about $15k into the construction and almost $2000 into the electrical alone.

The annoying part is that I purposely designed the building to be fairly small (it has a warming room) to accommodate the 120 sq.ft. non-permitted building requirement. Had I known running a wire inside would require the full analysis, I would have made it at least 160 sq.ft. But now it's too late to increase the size.

So, hopefully, this information will be helpful to someone else down the road.

Once it is done, I'll post pictures here.

Jason


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norton67
member


Reged: 12/11/12

Loc: Michigan
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5630297 - 01/18/13 05:34 PM

I would have ran and never said a word to anyone...lol.

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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: norton67]
      #5630339 - 01/18/13 06:07 PM

If I was in the boon-docks, I probably could get away with that. But given that we are going to put a pool in in a couple of years, the county would have found out about it one day

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Binary Star
super member
*****

Reged: 09/04/08

Loc: N.E. Ohio
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5630436 - 01/18/13 07:19 PM

What about going back to the original plan of running off an extension cord? Sounds like if you get rid of the permanent power connection the issue is moot.

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mikey cee
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/18/07

Loc: bellevue ne.
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5630437 - 01/18/13 07:19 PM

The less you say the bettrer....storage shed. Mike

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1965healy
The Snarkster
*****

Reged: 06/23/07

Loc: San Antonio, TX
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: mikey cee]
      #5630526 - 01/18/13 08:16 PM

I'm not sure if you can unring the bell at this point. They know it's there now. As odious as the prospect might be it may be better to bite the bullet and do it to code to prevent another issue down the road when the pool project starts. A ROR observatory usually confuses inspectors even tho in reality it's an elaborate "shed". When you add electricity to the mix they tend to really start looking at it and it becomes a "building" with all the safety issues that go along with that designation.

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bluestar
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 11/06/05

Loc: Maryland Eastern Shore
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: mikey cee]
      #5630564 - 01/18/13 08:48 PM Attachment (22 downloads)

Quote:

The less you say the bettrer....storage shed. Mike




And let that be The Lesson to potential builders
In stargazing cicles yes, it's an observatory, but to the masses it's nothing but a glorified shed by the neighborhood eccentric. I was doing fine with my "shed" until Scott from Backyard Observatories shows up with his truck n trailer and almost blew my cover


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Midnight Dan
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: bluestar]
      #5630604 - 01/18/13 09:17 PM

You have my sympathy. I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago with a different structure. Tried to do everything by the book (like you did) and got seriously screwed in the end.

Building inspectors seem intent on teaching us one important lesson - do all you can to avoid the building inspector!

-Dan


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mrpizza
member


Reged: 04/30/10

Loc: Palm Coast, FL
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5630640 - 01/18/13 09:51 PM

I put up a "permitted shed" and then did the necessary adjustments. Nobody is the wiser. I feel your pain but the extension chord seems like the fix until the pool.

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rimcrazy
sage


Reged: 03/03/12

Loc: Overgaard, AZ
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5630642 - 01/18/13 09:53 PM

When I built mine the dimension is 10.5' x 13.5' = 141 sq ft. Just under the 144 that needs a permit.

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bluestar
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 11/06/05

Loc: Maryland Eastern Shore
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: mrpizza]
      #5631070 - 01/19/13 05:26 AM

Quote:

I put up a "permitted shed" and then did the necessary adjustments. Nobody is the wiser. I feel your pain but the extension chord seems like the fix until the pool.




That's what I did...got permits needed for a "shed" and went by the books. I used the extension cord for years until some other home electrical upgrades gave me the opportunity to say to the electrician "say, any chance you could replace this cord and hardwire the shed to the garage w/conduit?" This is not cutting corners in my book; just not making things more difficult than they have to be, progressing incrementally and understanding where a project fits in the big picture of things.


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bluestar
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 11/06/05

Loc: Maryland Eastern Shore
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Binary Star]
      #5631074 - 01/19/13 05:35 AM

Quote:

What about going back to the original plan of running off an extension cord? Sounds like if you get rid of the permanent power connection the issue is moot.




My thoughts..."cancel" and scrap the entire "process", go with the extension cord. Just because you've moved this far and they know about doesn't mean you are committed...say it's unfeasible at this time. In a couple years w/the pool try getting an electrical hardwire to the shed bundled for pool "storage". By that time maybe the original inspectors will have moved on/retired and you can start from scratch and avoid the $$ hassle.


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rimcrazy
sage


Reged: 03/03/12

Loc: Overgaard, AZ
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: bluestar]
      #5631105 - 01/19/13 07:15 AM

Seriously, for $1000, you might look at a solar planel and a battery. If you do that, you are not hooking up to the main power. That can all be added after the fact. No inspectors. No problem.

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Norm42
super member
*****

Reged: 10/17/08

Loc: Webster, NY
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: rimcrazy]
      #5631190 - 01/19/13 09:19 AM

My experience and what some are echoing here is often an overkill in many of these official approaches and often the building inspectors are not very practical.

In cases where the structure was adding capital value to the house I have always gone official route for resale. This may not be needed for just the electrical part - vs the shed (assuming this has capital value for resale) in this case.

In another house I was in I ran underground wiring to a fountain landscape that I put in. It was one of those $70 items from lowes. So I did not want to put a lot of $ into this project. I ran the conduit per code and into the basement to a GFI outlet. However, connected as a normal three prong plug to the outlet. My model if inspected (ok maybe story) was this was not an permanent electrical install, but an extension cord. I did actually plug in for use, unplug when not in use. In particular in the winter.

In talking with folks (even building inspector) the risk is in three areas:
1. Insurance - fire. You need to assess this risk.
2. Neighbors complaining that forces an inspection- again need to assess if the neighborhood is like that.
3. Selling the house - what the new buyers will tolerate.

Most said that in 2 you at worse have to disconnect (I would expect this varies - not sure if there are fines in other areas) - or hire an electrician to redo the work. 3 depends on the buyers. They either take as is or disconnect/fill in the conduit (no issue in my case).

Norm


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Aquarist
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 08/27/12

Loc: Illinois
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Norm42]
      #5631213 - 01/19/13 09:39 AM

Well although we are doing a dome observatory rather than roll off roof, the building permits and specs had to be approved by the county and the city. There is no way I am willing to take the financial risk of being forced to "undo". In our case, they were picky about the site distance to the lot boundries, but were not as particular about anything else other than the height. However, the inspector ONLY looked at the current project without looking at any other "issues" that might have otherwise required a building permit.

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turtledude1
member
*****

Reged: 10/08/08

Loc: SW Fla.& SW. NM
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Norm42]
      #5631236 - 01/19/13 10:06 AM

Iím a General Contractor and Structural Engineer by profession. I can give you a long list of different items you can build without a permit. But as soon as any are electrified all will require an electric permit. Only reason electric can kill. As soon as you electrify a structure then the whole structure comes into review because there canít be any exposed wiring all will have to be either inside covered walls or run in conduit to local code. Also any feed lines will have to be buried to a certain depth or overhead to meet code. Even solar requires a permit. The main thing is that if you do the work un-permitted you, the city or county can be held liable if someone is injured or killed by electric.
Russ


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Bart
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/28/06

Loc: Somewhere near Charlottesville...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: turtledude1]
      #5631257 - 01/19/13 10:17 AM

Wow, after reading about all these hassles, it's going to be a slab of concrete, a Pod, the G11 tripod and an extension cord. I simply don't need the the cost and hassle.....

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Bob Griffiths
Getting Grouchy
*****

Reged: 10/10/05

Loc: Frederick Maryland
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Bart]
      #5631388 - 01/19/13 11:31 AM

I feel your pain...But I'd just do the pool this spring and continue to use your extension cord until it is finished and inspected...then I'd do the observatories electric

I put my pool in in 1973...added 2 free standing garages and a workshop plus the observatory after the fact over the years...

Here in 1973 you did not need a permit for anything.. about 1980 the county started requiring building permits BUT not electrical permits if you did the electrical yourself..

TODAY I could not do what I have done because the square footage of your house now determines how large the total additional square footage of all your outbuildings can add up to... Still do not need an electrical permit however if you do not employ an electrical contractor...

Laws,rules and regulations ...some make sense to someone..

Bob G.


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mikey cee
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/18/07

Loc: bellevue ne.
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Bob Griffiths]
      #5631506 - 01/19/13 12:44 PM

"Laws,rules and regulations ...some make cents to someone.."
Boy if that ain't the truth. Plus if noone gets hurt or killed that's just icing on the cake! Mike

Edited by mikey cee (01/19/13 12:46 PM)


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Calypte
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 03/20/07

Loc: Anza, California
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5631567 - 01/19/13 01:22 PM

Quote:

So, now my $100 electrical permit is going to cost another $100 for the building plus the fee of a structural engineer. And my first response from the engineer is "the design is very convoluted and how much money did I have in it for an engineering fee?" He's estimating the engineering is going to cost $1000.



This assumes the next inspector won't demand that you tear it down. Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. A few years ago an acquaintance in San Diego wanted a garage-to-room conversion brought up to current code so he could make other improvements (conversions are no longer permitted, but this one was grandfathered). He had a city inspector prepare a list of things that needed to be done before proceeding with the improvements. The needed upgrades were performed. A new inspector comes out. "Inspector Smith prepared this list, and we've done everything listed." The new inspector literally tears up the list and says, "I'll look at what I want to look at!" And he then proceeded to ding several items.

For my own new observatory (built by BYO), I kept it under 120 sq ft, and I use an extension cord. It helps that the property is invisible from main roads and that the observatory is invisible from the front gate.


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///^**^\\\
member


Reged: 12/25/10

Loc: Deep Dark Blackness of central...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5631720 - 01/19/13 03:05 PM

I second battery power and solar cell. The inspectors were hassling me about 110v in the observatory. They said electrical permit and structural review plus on some technicality because of permament utilities I would need an asthetic architectural review.

A couple of my freinds were with me puting finishing touches on the building. After hearing the hoop jumping and money and hassle that the inspector was proposing. I grabbed the guys and had a little pow wow. They guys went to the garage for shovels, screwdrivers and cutting pliers. I asked the inspector if he would witness the modificatiions we're about to make.

Well we dug up 10 feet of conduit, stripped the 110v lighting, removed the electrical sockets and pulled out all the wiring and the small panelbox.

The look on the inspector face was priceless especially when I told him that the building now has no 110v power nor will it ever. And after many meetings and lots of BS, the experience fo telling the inspector that since there isn't going to be any nature of 110v power that he has no business here and time for him to go. The Inspector grumbled and left.

Actually I am so much happier that I went 12v. With the 12v I have clean power, full sine wave, not a modified sine wave from a wall wart or cheap inverter. If the AC power blips or blacks out, which happens quite a bit in rural USA. That power glich is of no impact to me at all. How important is clean power? One night I was observing and saw the lights flash(power glich) on/off at my neighbor's. When I got back in the house I found my desktop house computer was fried. That could of been my astro-computer, mount, camera who knows.

For lighting it is all LED.

120w solar cell, 2 deep cycle batteries, a small 400watt full sine inverter for running the computer. I have never wanted for power.

"Keep a low profile, stay off the grid" LOL


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cn register 5
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/26/12

Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5631773 - 01/19/13 03:34 PM

As someone based in the UK I look at these stories of permits and HOA aggravation with a sense of wonder.

We have planning and installation rules but they aren't subject to the whim of some official or local committee.

Chris


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Calypte
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 03/20/07

Loc: Anza, California
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: ///^**^\\\]
      #5631837 - 01/19/13 04:24 PM

Quote:

If the AC power blips or blacks out, which happens quite a bit in rural USA.



Yeah, tell me about it! A car crashes into a power pole 30 miles away, and the lights go out here.


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Midnight Dan
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5631968 - 01/19/13 06:02 PM

Quote:

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody.




Got that right!

-Dan


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turtledude1
member
*****

Reged: 10/08/08

Loc: SW Fla.& SW. NM
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5632006 - 01/19/13 06:47 PM

All the BS I'm reading reminds me of an old saying...We the willing lead by the unknowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. Now that was a stupid statement. He has to answer to Public Safty, Local codes, State codes, and the National Building Code. A good inspector knows the laws extremely well and alot more than mister homeowner who slips it in on weekends burns his dam house down then wonders why?

If you think an inspector is an idiot and has no power then youíre living in never never land. Most inspectors carry at least a master license in their trade. Power? Yes he has power it's called a Stop Work Order or Red Tag. If you touch so much as a nail after he leaves one youíre going to find out just how much power he has. Fines average $250.00 a day in most areas some more. You can find yourself in court and be subject to even more fees. They can go as far as forcing you to tear your project to clear ground, but that would be extremely rare. But some people are stupid enough to continue to argue and that could be a real possibility. One case was an irrigation head in a right of way. The county said move it the contractor refused over a period of about six months. The county had the power pulled for the whole condominium complex until the head was moved.

Think before you open your trap to an inspector because he could be a real pain and actually know a little more than you think. I work with inspectors on an every day bases most are great guys if you treat them right. But on the other hand could be your worst nightmare.

Edited by csa/montana (01/24/13 08:06 PM)


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Norm Meyer
sage
*****

Reged: 02/08/09

Loc: Warren, ME 04864
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5632141 - 01/19/13 07:55 PM

You know what they say "It is easier to beg forgiveness than
to ask permission". I don't inquire about too much. Maine is
a lot easier to work with than CA but it's coming here to...
just a little more slowly.
Best of luck.

Norm


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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Norm Meyer]
      #5632240 - 01/19/13 09:23 PM

It has been my experience that coming up with a set of plans with a structural engineer or architect's stamp on them almost always turns the entire permitting process into a breeze.

I have always had the best luck getting the structural engineering stamp by looking around for a young, open-minded, self-employed engineer to work with. Usually at the best rates too.

Municipal bureaucrats are much more likely to lock horns with homeowners than they are with professional engineers, who can often quote building codes from memory.

I hope this helps.


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Midnight Dan
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/23/08

Loc: Hilton, NY, Yellow Zone (Bortl...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Christopher Erickson]
      #5632911 - 01/20/13 10:29 AM

Quote:

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. Now that was a stupid statement. He has to answer to Public Safty, Local codes, State codes, and the National Building Code. A good inspector knows the laws extremely well and alot more than mister homeowner who slips it in on weekends burns his dam house down then wonders why?




First, not all inpsectors are "good". In my recent dealings with my building inspector, he told me I needed a 4 foot deep below-the-frontline foundation for an 8x12' storage shed. I had to spend many hours of my own time pouring through the NYS online building codes to prove him wrong.

Second, while technically, the inspector is "answerable", in effect he is not. The town lost a 20 year old inspection record for my barn and the building inspector decided that it needed an inspection, including digging up our property to inspect the foundation. I spent thousands on a lawyer, only to be told that he essentially could do whatever he wanted. We could try to fight it in court, but it would cost many tens of thousands of dollars and we still could lose.

Bottom line - it takes more time and costs more money to fight the inspector than it's worth ... and he knows it. This is what makes him answerable to no one.

-Dan


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Mary B
Vendor - Echo Astronomy and Electronics
*****

Reged: 05/21/10

Loc: Minnesota
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Midnight Dan]
      #5633651 - 01/20/13 05:50 PM

So run the electrical to a pole beside the observatory and use a short RV cord to power it. Makes a nice lightning protection disconnect also.

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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Mary B]
      #5633666 - 01/20/13 05:55 PM

Quote:

So run the electrical to a pole beside the observatory and use a short RV cord to power it. Makes a nice lightning protection disconnect also.




Excellent advice!

And have a licensed electrician do the work.


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Aquarist
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 08/27/12

Loc: Illinois
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Christopher Erickson]
      #5633732 - 01/20/13 06:28 PM

We are erring on the side of caution, getting all plans, measurements, etc. approved and signed off. The planning process may take a bit longer than desirable, but the final inspection process is a breeze.

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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Aquarist]
      #5633746 - 01/20/13 06:38 PM

Steve, this plan will save you time & grief later on!

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Aquarist
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 08/27/12

Loc: Illinois
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5634009 - 01/20/13 10:02 PM

Thanks Carol. The worst case scenario that I am trying to avoid is "undoing" which could get costly. But so far, while they are particular, things are proceeding smoothly.

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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Aquarist]
      #5634080 - 01/20/13 10:42 PM

Glad to hear that, Steve; keep us posted.

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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5636728 - 01/22/13 11:50 AM

Update from the long weekend: I drove down and talked with the Structural Engineer Friday afternoon. One of their CAD guys came out and introduced himself -- he is one of the local astro club members and has property in the mountains that he wants to build an observatory on as well. Turns out when the primary engineer saw my write-up request for help, he called the CAD guy in as they had planned a roll-off 10 years ago but never did it. So, they didn't see my project as crazy and were quite envious

Anyways, they did some napkin calculations and couldn't find anything that was a concern to them. They are going to run some more serious numbers to be sure. They also wanted to see a positive hold-down mechanism in both the open and closed positions (had planned for the closed, but not the open). So, I'm on my way to getting the engineering done and then I can head back to the county to pay their shakedown fee

I'm not worried about having to "re-do" it. So far, it's all been done to their rules -- i.e. it was an exempt building until the electrical so, at most, I should have pulled the building permit at the same time as the electrical instead of learning it needed a new permit from the first electrical inspector.

When it comes to structural inspections, however, I haven't met an inspector in this area that knows much. They rely on the engineer to tell them it's OK. As the engineer noted, once they see you went through the effort of hiring an engineer and have the wet stamp, they don't even bother looking at the building -- figuring if you went that far, you most likely did it as prescribed.

As for the extension cord solution. That was the solution with my last observatory and I would switch the breaker off when not in use. But it was a mess of power strips and cords running everywhere. Not exactly what you want when you're walking around in the dark within tight quarters.

This time, I plan to run an instrumentation pole with real-time weather and sky monitoring through a laptop updating to the web. It would be much more convenient to have the networking and power permanently installed. And when the inspector brought up the permit requirement, the trench and conduit were in the ground and the $600 worth of wire was already shipping cross-country. So, the deed was pretty much done.

On Saturday, I pulled the cable, wired up the panel, wired up a 20A GFCI below, and flipped it on. It was satisfying being able to run some tools off of the observatory's own power. Roughed in a few more boxes before turning back to sealing up the exterior for a forecasted round of rain this weekend.


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Christopher EricksonModerator
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 05/08/06

Loc: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5636763 - 01/22/13 12:11 PM

That's fantastic news!

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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5636764 - 01/22/13 12:12 PM

One of the disadvantages to the building permit process is that you have less flexibility in being able to change your plan mid-construction.

If you're doing the project as a weekend hobby, it gives you lots of time to read what others have done during certain stages of construction and make some changes -- some simply for aesthetics or convenience. For example, I decided to shift my main pier over a foot to get a better view to the west. I also shifted my warming room wall over a foot. And I hadn't decided on the final siding until the exterior walls were framed. At least the first two required changes to the framing that would probably have sent me back to the country and engineer to modify and submit the plans.

Getting the structural engineer review now is easy since it is built and all they have to do is validate and stamp it.

But if you aren't building it yourself, then you most likely will need to have a set of plans for a contractor to build from (and to bid on). So then you might as well get the engineering and permit.

I'll also add that you can't neglect the cost factor. My last observatory was a converted $500 Rubbermaid shed. I estimate I put about $3000 into it if I include all the furniture, the window A/C, the insulation, plywood, deadbolt, etc... I actually sold the structure for $1000. Doubtful that the welded modifications would have been easy to engineer and get inspected, but the costs would have been a quarter of the final price (assuming $1000).

In this observatory, I'm in at least $15K (maybe $20K as I stopped tracking out of depression) in finishing touches, new electronics, etc... It's my pimped-out observatory that's going to last at least 10 years (i.e. until we decide to move houses). Spending another thousand is just a small fraction now.

What's going to be interesting is that my wife's grandmother has 120 acres that has been in the family for about 80 years. It is in the Green light zone, but about a two-hour drive away. I've talked with some AP buddies about building an observatory on the property sometime down the road when my wife inherits part of the property. It will be off-grid, however, as the highest spot on the property is about 3500 feet from the road -- there's not even a dirt road on the property to get to the spot. But I expect we will still need to get a building permit anyways since I'm not limiting myself to 120 square feet again.


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Christopher EricksonModerator
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5636842 - 01/22/13 12:51 PM

And sometimes even when you do everything right, you can still run into extra-bad inspectors.

* Here in Hawaii, I put in a solar hot water heater to replace the old 240VAC electric water heater. It required the sign-off of three inspectors. Structural, plumbing and a special "green energy" inspector so I could get my state tax rebate. Amazingly, the "green energy" inspector wanted to know where the connection to 120VAC was to run the circulation pump. I told him it didn't need one because it had a 240VAC pump. He flat-out told me that there was no such thing as a 240VAC circulation pump! He continued to argue, even after I pointed to the "240VAC" on the sticker on the pump. He never gave in but he did finish his paperwork and hand me a signed approval form. Ego. Sad.

* In Pendleton, Oregon, a friend had a permitted cow shelter (roof and four poles) in the middle of a field. He added siding on two sides for wind protection for the cows. Municipal inspector came out and threatened him with $1,000/day fines for every day that it remained up. He had to tear it down, get a set of plans, an engineering stamp, a building permit and two inspections to put it back up. Absurd.

So in conclusion, it is my opinion is that it is much better to learn the local rules and play the game than it is to get sideways with the local building authorities, who have the unfortunate power to make your life miserable.

In most locations what seems to work really-well is taking a set of Skyshed plans to a local structural engineer, who may make some modifications or additions to accommodate local building codes and then stamp them. That usually makes the whole process a lot smoother than it would be otherwise.

I hope this helps!


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DGB
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5637433 - 01/22/13 05:43 PM Attachment (19 downloads)

Quote:

Anyways, they did some napkin calculations and couldn't find anything that was a concern to them. They are going to run some more serious numbers to be sure. They also wanted to see a positive hold-down mechanism in both the open and closed positions (had planned for the closed, but not the open). So, I'm on my way to getting the engineering done and then I can head back to the county to pay their shakedown fee




My county inspectors (Madison County, Virginia) approved this roof hold down mechanism for the open and closed positions of my 20'x24' roll off observatory. The welded bar slides between the caster plate and the "V" groove wheel. Both rails have this mechanism welded on each end. A clamp on each rail from the warm room serves as the other open/closed point of positive engagement.


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Joel
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: DGB]
      #5637443 - 01/22/13 05:51 PM

Glad things seem to be working out for you. I had to get a permit for my observatory. When the inspector came to do the inspection (after it was completed) he barely glanced at it. The only thing he had to say was to ask me what the telescope cost.

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jazle
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: DGB]
      #5638799 - 01/23/13 12:06 PM

Looks like you're ready for a hurricane! I thought of something very similar, but on a smaller scale. I would have to do the same as you and have two different hold-downs to cover both ends.

What I'm thinking of doing is getting some box steel, cut out a slot on one of the four sides and mount it to the roof wheel set with the slot about an inch above the angle-iron track plate. Then put some lag bolts will go through the track and the heads will stick up so they slide into the groove when open or closed. Then I only need to cut the gable end for the profile of the bolts which I can tuck under a splash guard.


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DeanS
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5638883 - 01/23/13 12:57 PM

I have forgotten to clamp my roof down before after closing up. The last time we had severe thunderstorms roll thru the area with high winds. When I went out and realized the roof was not secured I was so surprised as it did not move a fraction of an inch.

I do have some metal "keepers" that will not allow the roof to come off, but nothing to keep it from rolling, except clamps inside. However my roof is a hip roof design and that does not give as much area for the force of the wind to hit it straight on. And it is heavy.

So just something else to consider in your design if you are in an area prone to high winds and storms.

Dean

As for permitting, I just went thru a big scare with building a large equipment/party barn. My contractor said we don't need a permit and I went along thinking he had built enough to know. After they poured several truckloads of concrete for the pad, and I saw how large it was going to be, I decided to double check. Farmers don't need permits for barns that are primarily for livestock but I must have one they said for even storing mowers and tractors. So no big deal I thought, I'll get one. Turns out my contractor and excavator put it too close to the property line so I ended up having to apply for a varience which delayed the project about 3 months. But at least now I don't ever have to worry about it being non-compliant and risk being told to tear it down in the future. So yes it is worth doing it right to begin with.

And with that being said, no I did not get a permit for my observatory when I built it 10 years ago. However after the building inspector when thru my barn I showed him the observatory. He was very impressed and said it was well made.

Edited by DeanS (01/23/13 01:21 PM)


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Calypte
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Reged: 03/20/07

Loc: Anza, California
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: DeanS]
      #5639591 - 01/23/13 09:29 PM

Quote:

But at least now I don't ever have to worry about it being non-compliant and risk being told to tear it down in the future. So yes it is worth doing it right to begin with.



We have a local brouhaha going on because people have structures that were permitted and signed off, but then another inspector shows up and decides it's non-compliant after all. My earlier comment about inspectors being laws unto themselves and being answerable to nobody (which got an angry retort from someone who apparently is a retired inspector) was partly derived from this local situation. A county supervisor got involved, and people thought they were going to get amnesty on at least some of these shakedowns, but it turns out there is no amnesty. I haven't been personally hit up, but this is exactly the sort of thing that keeps people from even inquiring about permits. And I wouldn't feel too confident that, just because you're square with the inspectors now, it doesn't mean they can't change their minds.


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DeanS
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5639708 - 01/23/13 10:44 PM

I would think if you have a signed building permit, and an approved final inspection you should be covered no matter what changes??

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JJK
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 04/28/08

Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: ///^**^\\\]
      #5640067 - 01/24/13 06:25 AM

Quote:

I second battery power and solar cell. The inspectors were hassling me about 110v in the observatory. They said electrical permit and structural review plus on some technicality because of permament utilities I would need an asthetic architectural review.

SNIP




How do you keep the batteries from freezing? Are they located underground?


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Patrik Iver
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: JJK]
      #5640838 - 01/24/13 02:33 PM

Quote:

How do you keep the batteries from freezing? Are they located underground?




By keeping them charged, which they will be, as the charge is maintained by the solar panels through the charge-/discharge controller.

Lead acid batteries do not freeze, when kept sudficiently charged. Well, eventually they do, but at really extreme temperatures (arctic, somewhere below -60 deg. F).


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Christopher EricksonModerator
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Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: DeanS]
      #5641033 - 01/24/13 04:44 PM

Quote:

I would think if you have a signed building permit, and an approved final inspection you should be covered no matter what changes??




Remodel permits normally require the entire structure brought up to current fire, electrical, plumbing (and hurricane) codes.


Edited by Chris Erickson (01/24/13 04:46 PM)


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jazle
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Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Christopher Erickson]
      #5641416 - 01/24/13 08:32 PM

Today's Update: Picked up the structural engineering review today. Safe and sound. Other than adding the hold downs -- which were already planned, but just not yet implemented -- all the calculations came out fine. No modifications required. All that for $700.

Tomorrow I'll head down to the county to see what kind of shakedown fee for the permit they have in store. Hopefully it's the minimum $100.


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JustinO
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Reged: 10/08/12

Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5645049 - 01/26/13 08:08 PM

Put wheels on it.
I know someone who built a chicken coop. Inspector shows up and starts yelling. Next day inspector returns -- the coop is cut off its foundation and set on an old utility trailer. Inspector leaves and doesn't come back.
Only the telescope's footing needs to be in the ground, and that isn't a "structure".


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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: JustinO]
      #5691547 - 02/20/13 07:01 PM Attachment (19 downloads)

Latest update: Permit application cost was $200 -- $150 now, $50 when issued. Fire department wants another $50. Took a week for the planners to review "my plans" and the engineering docs. My plans were nothing special, just a diagram I threw together in Excel of the layout for my planning. I figured that would be enough for "a shed".

Well, the planners called and they were fine with the location. Wanted to make sure it was OK with the local CC&R office (which approved it in October).

Certainly one of the most ironic questions I'll ever be asked in my lifetime regarding the observatory: "When the roof is rolled off, will the building be emitting any stray light?" Apparently, they wanted to make sure the observatory would meet the county's lighting ordinance! I think the planner realized the silliness of the question as she was asking it.

But then it goes to the plan checkers. Rather than call me, they send me a letter. In it, they want everything! Floor plans, elevation plans, roofing plans, electrical and mechanical plans, diagram of code-compliant stairs, a diagram of the roll-off/on mechanism, a diagram of the telescope mount, engineering confirmation on anything that has been covered,...

They actually sent a "residential building permit" checklist with all of the things they needed circled. The only thing they didn't check was a site plan and some energy efficiency calculations -- I had included a small site plan with the original application. They'll probably be asking for carbon monoxide detectors soon :P

So back to the engineers. They say I can save myself $1000 by doing the plan sheets myself (I knew my 7th-grade drafting class would come in useful someday). They'll do the analysis on tie-downs I devised.

Meanwhile, I keep working on anything that won't cover up any additional inspection checks.

I did get the exterior painting done this past weekend and it's starting to look like a real building. Attaching a photo.


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Raginar
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Loc: Rapid CIty, SD
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5691594 - 02/20/13 07:35 PM

Jason,

I'm really sorry to hear that. Your shed is costing you more in plans/permits than my 10x10 cost me. Ever thought about moving to SD?

Seriously though, I feel for you. It looks beautiful.


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Wmacky
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/24/07

Loc: Florida
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Raginar]
      #5691631 - 02/20/13 07:53 PM

Looks fantastic BUT......

Note to self:

When exiting the totalitarian overseer State of Florida, Avoid California at all cost.

Edited by Wmacky (02/21/13 10:52 PM)


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Startraffic
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Reged: 02/12/06

Loc: Lat. 39.143345, Long. -77.1748...
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Wmacky]
      #5691657 - 02/20/13 08:03 PM

Add Washington Grove to that list. I had to move a POD 5 times to conform with the setback requirements & get a permit.

Clear Dark Skies
Startraffic
39.138274 -77.168898


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Mary B
Vendor - Echo Astronomy and Electronics
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Reged: 05/21/10

Loc: Minnesota
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Startraffic]
      #5693180 - 02/21/13 05:28 PM

Here if your building comes in prefab no permit required, I could have a 20x30 foot garage trucked in and dropped on a pad with no permit.

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MRNUTTY
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Reged: 11/22/11

Loc: Mendon, MA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Mary B]
      #5693420 - 02/21/13 07:48 PM

Wow! There are some maniacal town governments out there. I just went with the same contractor I used for home additions to build me a "shed". I got a regular permit, inspector didn't bat an eye at it. I consider myself lucky.

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Calypte
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Reged: 03/20/07

Loc: Anza, California
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Startraffic]
      #5693445 - 02/21/13 08:02 PM

Quote:

I had to move a POD 5 times to conform with the setback requirements & get a permit.

Clear Dark Skies
Startraffic
39.138274 -77.168898



What was the final setback?


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John Fitzgerald
In Focus
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Reged: 01/04/04

Loc: AR
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Calypte]
      #5693599 - 02/21/13 09:30 PM

I am glad to say that on my observatory property there is no permitting of any kind required to build a structure of any kind, or run water, septic, or electricity. People in that county do not want zoning, permitting, or anyone in their business. It is very rural and people seem to get along fine. I go out there not only to observe, but for peace and quiet. No one out there tries to get in anyone else's business, as it could precipitate some kind of rural justice.

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Wmacky
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/24/07

Loc: Florida
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: John Fitzgerald]
      #5693734 - 02/21/13 10:56 PM

Quote:

I am glad to say that on my observatory property there is no permitting of any kind required to build a structure of any kind, or run water, septic, or electricity. People in that county do not want zoning, permitting, or anyone in their business. It is very rural and people seem to get along fine. I go out there not only to observe, but for peace and quiet. No one out there tries to get in anyone else's business, as it could precipitate some kind of rural justice.




Your state just made my + list


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jazle
super member


Reged: 05/20/10

Loc: California, USA
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: Wmacky]
      #5712702 - 03/04/13 03:01 PM Attachment (15 downloads)

Update:

I drew up 14 sheets of plans and had the engineers review them. They also did the analysis on my automatic hold-down mechanism for the roof. The engineers stamped my plans and didn't charge me anything extra!

Took them to the county and it flew through the approval process. Scheduled the inspection and the inspector saw it today, looked at the plans, and said everything looks great and to call them back when I'm ready for the final inspection.

So, all in all, it added $700 for the engineering and $300 for the permits, plus about two weeks drawing up plans and driving that I could have been working on the observatory. But now I have one of the most scrutinized utility sheds on my block in case I have troubles down the road.



Edited by csa/montana (03/04/13 05:03 PM)


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astrodog73
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Reged: 02/22/13

Loc: Australia
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: jazle]
      #5712959 - 03/04/13 05:17 PM

Plans, and the building look great, we have a good going bureacracy here, but yours puts ours to shame!
With my roll-off, I thought of securing the roof in the open position, but figured, its a very heavy roof, and for wind to move it, it would be too windy to be doing anything in the obs anyway, and whenever its that windy here, its generally cloudy.....


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Raginar
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Reged: 10/19/10

Loc: Rapid CIty, SD
Re: Permitting Lesson new [Re: astrodog73]
      #5717574 - 03/07/13 12:25 AM

Beautiful. Still frustrating when it shouldn't be that hard! I'm glad you got it approved.

Now, for some observing


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