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Posted by: thepinetree on 04/21/2008 12:24 PM Updated by: thepinetree on 04/21/2008 03:39 PM
Expires: 01/01/2013 12:00 AM

Report on Driveway Slope issue for Calaveras County~From Doug Shinn & Barry Ward

San Andreas, CA...After a round of public meetings, including a study session with the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, and much public dialogue we can report the following to you. We confirmed that the Building Department changed the way they “interpret” our current Fire and Life Safety Code mid year 2007. They were strongly challenged for taking this new position and we did have some limited success in softening the impact. Where the mitigation since 1992 was to pave the driveway, that is no longer the rule of the land....

Replacing that requirement is a new list of recommended mitigations submitted by the County Fire Chiefs Association and recommendations also submitted by Builders and Realtors. These mitigations are not codified; they are guidelines that the Building Department will use to determine if a parcel will be issued a building permit.

The best way to learn more about this new process is that when the situation arises, contact the Calaveras County Building Department to determine their current policy. It is our opinion that these new requirements will be evolving as we go forward from here.

Summation of current policy as we understand it.

• Driveway rules do not apply to existing structures. If a home were to burn down the County would issue a permit to build in the same footprint. This was verbally supported by all the Supervisors and staff promised to follow up with this in writing. We have not received a letter as of this writing.
• Unimproved property with driveway slopes from 0-16% require no special mitigation and therefore is exempt from any slope issue.
• Unimproved property with slopes of 16.1% or greater will require mitigation as determined by the Building Department on a case by case basis. No written document currently is available that outlines mitigation options. The Building Department has stated they will develop one.
• Even though no driveway slope cap exists in the code it remains to be seen how this will play out when looking at slopes from 21% and up as the mitigating will be more difficult and expensive.
• State Law does allow exemptions when a parcel was approved prior to 1991 and the driveway location was identified on the map.
• The County has agreed that flag lots meet the standard of the driveway being identified on the map and therefore should be exempt.
• A key point on the Fire Chiefs list was a statement that mitigations are of lesser concern when the rear of the proposed structure is within 150 feet of the roadway.
• Fire Department mitigations of a more simple nature go generally to wider driveways and encroachments to allow room for a fire engine to park off the county roadway.
• The steeper the lot the more costly and difficult the mitigation. This will unfortunately decrease the value of upslope parcels with driveways exceeding 16%.
• In some of the more difficult cases there will be lots that will be denied a building permit because of the site limitations. This means there are no guarantees and if you are selling a steeper parcel make sure your buyer does his due diligence.

As you may see already, there is some clarity but not too much in the way of concrete tie-downs for what the current code will allow or not. The bottom line is clearly that each unimproved parcel with a driveway slope greater than 16% may be subject to required mitigations as determined by the Building Department using general guidelines on a case by case basis.

Owners, sellers, buyers, Realtors, engineers and builders should act accordingly when evaluating unimproved parcels. The Calaveras County Building Department and their designated fire safety official is the best source to determine how a parcel will be affected by current or future policy interpretations.

Citizens made every effort to challenge this new radical policy shift that occurred suddenly without benefit of public hearings or due process. Our protests fell mostly on deaf ears but some concessions were made. This is now a statewide issue that will not be going away unless it is challenged by legal action or new leadership at the county level.

Your questions or comments are welcomed.

Respectfully submitted,

Douglas R. Shinn
Cedar Creek Realty

Barry Ward
Barry Ward Realty

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