Conditional Use Permit process:
Well the permitting process continues to be glacial, but even glaciers do move. And so is this one…finally. We have completed everything that El Dorado County needs from us to process our application, including doing a “noise study” (which cost several thousand dollars) to determine how high we can turn up the microphone if any of our presenters happen to need one to amplify their voice. While we aren’t intending to do major parties here, we thought it was still wise to deal with this in our initial permitting process. Otherwise, the County was going to require us to get a temporary permit for amplified sound any time we wanted to use a microphone, which seemed like it would be too cumbersome to deal with on a case-by-case basis.
The Agriculture Commission determined that they needed to weigh in on our project through a formal, public hearing, rather than just approving our project based on the description in our application. We were told this is because our project is the first of its kind in the County under the newly created ‘Health and Wellness Resort and Retreat Center’ special use in the new Zoning Ordinance Update. So whatever the Ag Commission decides for our project will set a precedent. Lucky us.
The meeting happened Wednesday night. We weren’t expecting any controversy since the Commission was considering a pretty narrowly defined question: “Could the project adversely affect possible agriculture uses on adjacent properties? ” And in fact, there wasn’t any controversy at the meeting. The Commission approved our project. However, several neighbors showed up at the meeting. Some of them we knew, and a few of them we didn’t. We are surrounded by very large parcels (most of them are 35 acres and larger), with two of the largest parcels owned by the Bureau of Land Management, so we don’t actually have that many neighbors. And not all of them have houses on them so several of our “neighbors” don’t even actually live here. No one spoke publicly either in support or against the project, since the only question they were allowed to comment on was the question above, so we don’t know if they were there simply to find out more information, or if they actually have some sort of issue with our project. If I were in their shoes I’m sure I would attend the meeting just to find out what’s going on in my neighborhood, so at this point we can’t read anything into their presence at the meeting. I have no doubt we will find out during the next phase if they have any issues.
Unfortunately the whole Agriculture Commission hearing set us back more than a month. We were told by our Planner (County staff) that with the holidays and the 30-day requirement to notify adjacent neighbors, there is no way we will be able to get on the agenda of the Planning Commission until early February. So we are really pushing to make sure that happens, and that it doesn’t get pushed back even further!
We have been meeting with various business advocacy groups, agriculture groups, our County Supervisor, and others in the community who support our project. Everywhere we go we are being told that Reverie Retreat is exactly the kind of project that El Dorado County is trying to attract to support economic development in the rural parts of the County. Everyone wants to support ag-tourism and outdoor recreation with projects that complement, rather than detract from, the rural character of our area. And one of the biggest issues that comes up is that there isn’t enough lodging in our County to support increased tourism. So Reverie Retreat checks a lot of the right boxes. We are hopeful the Planning Commission will see it that way too.
If all goes well at that meeting, then we should have our conditional use permit (CUP) by mid-February.
In the meantime, Ramon built a yome (link to yome blog), and is building an adjacent toilet room with a compost toilet. We’ve been assured by people who have these toilets that they’ve come a long way and are completely acceptable to use. Plus you get the added benefit of a great soil amendment once everything has composted down.
A contractor will be renovating the bathroom in the guest cottage in January, and at the same time Ramon will fully renovate the cottage’s main bedroom. Once we obtain the Conditional Use Permit we will start building the pool (link to pool blog). Our goal is to rent out the yome and the guest cottage as vacation rentals starting in April, to give us some income until Reverie is fully developed and up and running. And hopefully the pool will be finished by May, just in time for summer.
I’ve been busy putting together our marketing plan, financial projections, operational and staffing plan, project development timeline, and the rest of the detailed business plan so that we can go to a lender for financing as soon as we have our CUP. I’ve been working with a really wonderful consultant at the Sacramento Small Business Development Center who is helping me get all of the details of the business plan fine-tuned enough to be successful in obtaining financing. It’s pretty amazing that the Small Business Association, an arm of the federal government, pays for high-quality consultants to help people develop small businesses, and it’s all free for the entrepreneur. I am really grateful that this resource exists.
Unfortunately we can’t go to a lender until we have our CUP, since we won’t have full assurances on what the County will require in terms of infrastructure development (things like roads, parking, cabin permitting, etc.) until we get final approval from the Planning Commission. And that means we can’t start preparing the construction documents and cost estimates until we have our CUP. Of course if we had unlimited money we could pay someone to prepare preliminary plans and then revise them as needed, but we are doing this with a shoestring budget so can’t afford to spend money to prepare plans that aren’t exactly what we need to move forward.
I am hopeful that we will be able to get financing and start the building process by June or July, 2017, and be open by late Spring, 2018. That is the timeline I’m working from at this point and the one I really want to manifest to bring this project to fruition.
Thank you to everyone for your ongoing encouragement and support. It’s been a long slog – and no doubt will be an even longer slog before we are finally open — so Ramon and I both really appreciate your faith and confidence in us!