Hey. How ya doin’? Been a while….
I suppose I’d like to begin with an apology, as it has been a very long time since our last project update. However, you’ll all be glad, I’m sure, to hear that the Ranch has been relocated and is now living with friends at a beautiful farm upstate, where it can chase rabbits and play in the fields and be happy all the time…
Oh, okay, you got me. That’s a complete lie.
In fact, the project has been on hold (and in grave jeopardy) since we discovered that there is an easement on the property that the seller did not disclose, and which the title company did not discover in their title search. This easement gives our neighbor Mike (you may remember Mike from the Holes! post) the right to locate his septic leach field on our property. Once we found out, we hired a lawyer, a septic engineer, and made a title insurance claim. We then spent several months trying to educate ourselves about what such an easement entailed, what the actual situation was with regard to the existing systems, and what implications for us were going forward…
We read up on the way these things work, consulted with friends, professionals, and people at both the City and County planning departments. Exploratory trenches were dug, the neighbor’s septic field was located and mapped out, and more research was done on the nature and extent of the easement.
We learned that such an easement is very detrimental to the resale value of a property. We also learned that the presence of a leach field on one’s property can represent a major liability going forward, as the property owner (rather than the easement holder) will ultimately be held responsible by the county for any sewage seeping from their property. In addition to that, in the opinion of our engineer (as corroborated by our lawyer) the easement is not limited to the actual area covered by the leach field but covers fully half of our property (giving us very little room to install the replacement system so urgently needed by the GDR).
In fact, this particular leach field is very… shall we say… non-standard, and it turns out that it’s not in a particularly great operational state. The cherry on top of this particular sewage sundae is that the easement means that there is a real possibility that our very cool and groovy barn/workshop/secret-society-meeting-place could be torn down to accommodate a new system (or to effect repairs on the existing).
While I trust that Mike and his family are reasonable people, and would not be acting maliciously or anything like that, I also know that they need to have a functional water waste disposal system (like everyone else in the world) and that the easement was part of what they bought when they purchased their house. Certainly, they have every right to use that half of our property as their septic needs dictate. Still, things change, houses get sold (possibly to less considerate, reasonable people), and the fact remains that that mere existence of this easement (and the physical leach field itself) represents a potentially major liability going forward.
For almost our entire time here we have been looking at this situation in terms of it being a problem to be solved, and that once we cleared things up we’d be able to start in on the (much anticipated, and delayed) design phase of our passive house project. Tara fell in love with the Ranch pretty much instantly and over the last six months I have very much come to share her attachment to this particular, if slightly peculiar, little place… we both think it’s a very special little corner of the world. The idea of bailing out, and walking away from our commitment to rehabbing the house and grounds here was something we just were not prepared to accept.
Sadly, though, our Christmas present to ourselves this year was finally coming to terms with the reality of our situation here: that what we thought we were spending our life savings on last June was not the thing we actually bought. It took us a long time to emotionally accept the painful truth that so long as the easement is there in its current form (or any form?) the ranch is not financially viable for us, and that the smart thing for us to do is to extricate ourselves from the situation as expeditiously as possible (while minimizing any monetary loss). The upshot of which is that it looks like we will be looking for a new site to unleash our little makeover (ecover? environovation?) upon once we are in a position to do so.
(I have been avoiding making this announcement publicly, in a most cowardly fashion, because writing all of this down makes it seem more concrete and real, and that is a stone cold bummer).
I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that we harbor no ill will against our neighbors, who are rightfully concerned with maintaining the livability of their own home (which can’t be said for Carl, the oft-cursed original developer and my personal, time-shifted nemesis, for whom I have vanishingly little regard). In fact, our experience with all of the neighbors here has been pretty danged fantastic, all in all. Part of the sadness we feel about this whole deal is that we will be leaving the Ranch without really getting to know everyone as well as we would have liked.
For now we are in the midst of negotiating the settlement from the title insurance company, but assuming we don’t lose too much on this deal, will begin the search process for a new site as soon as practical.
Even though it now seems unlikely that the edenic Gimpy Dog Ranch we had envisioned will ever come to be, we do remain hopeful for the (eventual) future and intend to document the new project, so stay tuned for updates!
Wish us luck…