Foundation surveys discussed

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The Steamboat Springs City Council tonight will consider an ordinance requiring builders to have foundation surveys as part of the construction process.

The foundation surveys would cost builders hundreds of dollars, but City Manager Paul Hughes said the ordinance would prevent builders from going too far in the building process before realizing a home is in the wrong place.

Each year, two or three residents build houses or other structures in different locations from where the approved plans indicate they should go. The structures then violate the city's regulations on setbacks, go into designated rights-of-ways and sometimes even go onto their neighbors' property, Hughes said

A foundation survey would catch those problems earlier and prevent homeowners from having to tear down and rebuild whole structures if the foundation is in the wrong place, Hughes said.

"It is a lot easier up front than to go back and correct those things after the fact," Hughes said.

The city has never made a homeowner tear down a house because the foundation was in the wrong place, but it did require a garage to be moved because it was 10 feet into a 12-foot setback easement.

The ordinance would require builders to have a surveyor stake the excavation work before pouring a foundation and to provide a survey of the complete foundation 30 days after the foundation walls are completed. The builder would have to hire the surveyor to do the work.

Hughes said many communities require foundation surveys.

"The way the rest of the world does this, they verify before the house goes up that the foundation is where the house is supposed to be," he said.

Local Surveyor Brian Kelly of BTK Surveys said the ordinance would have the greatest burdens on the do-it-yourself homebuilders, who typically have very little surveying done in the homebuilding process. They could see foundation surveys add another $800 to $1,200 to the cost of construction, Kelly said.

Professional builders already employ surveyors, Kelly said. He estimated the added costs for them would be $300 to $700.

Kelly thinks that surveys could solve the vast majority of the problems that arise with setback easements and violations, but not all of them.

"It will eliminate the really obvious flagrant problems, but I don't think it is realistically going to eliminate every problem," Kelly said.

City Councilman Steve Ivancie said the council has discussed requiring a foundation survey for years. He thinks it is a problem that is only going to get worse as land becomes scarcer in Steamboat and less buildable lots are used.

"I feel this is important," Ivancie said. "As we see more challenging lots, steeper lots, smaller lots, as people build larger homes, we have to make sure foundations are in the right spot."

But he said the costs of foundation surveys could be more than a thousand dollars and would be passed on to the homeowners.

"It is going to make a significant impact on the cost of housing in Routt County, but the builders don't pay for this," Ivancie said. "The owners do."

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