Notes from Windward: #57

Rebuilding the barn

A tree has gotten entangled in a guy wire, and two telephone men brave the flood to free it.
Over the last 16 months, Windward was at ground-zero for a series of storms of such magnitude that Klickitat County was declared a Federal Disaster Area three times. The storm of February '96 resulted in the washing away of four miles of Highway 142, something which made getting in and out quite a challenge. Our trusty Chevy 4x4 did what needed to be done, but it was a long summer.

Located two thousand feet above sea level, Windward isn't likely to be "washed away," but the snow and rain left its share of damage. All in all, Klickitat County suffered more than a thousand dollars of damage per capita. The damage here fell under two headings: our buildings and our roads.

Once the snow melted, and the run-off finished, we were left with deep ruts in our roads (our driveway is currently more than half a mile long) and the work we'd done on the new entrance had been undermined and washed away. The ruts were dealt with by bringing in half a dozen truckloads of pit-run gravel, but rebuilding the new entrance and installing culverts in certain key run-off areas has been held up awaiting the completion of what has seemed like an endless train of paperwork. Well, it appears that we've finally gotten to the end of the train, and now the tracks are clear to get started on substantial repairs.

Deep ruts scar the road
As in so many things of this nature, there are lots of lessons to learn, some of which aren't the nice kind. For example, we couldn't demolish and repair the barn until we received a permit to do that. A permit for repair doesn't address land-use issues, just the structural integrity of the repairs. But, if you demolish the building before you're granted the permit to repair, then the whole thing steps back a level. At that point, you have to address the issue of getting permission to have such a structure in that particular place. For an organization that is developing land under the guidelines of a conditional use permit, that's not what you want.

To give you an example of how it can work, the domestic violence shelter in a nearby town had a fire which destroyed the house they were located in. Lots of local people helped with tearing down what was left. After all the debris had been hauled off to the dump, they went down to get a permit to rebuild. Since the prior permited facility had been demolished, the old permit was null and void and now they would have to go through the process of getting a variance in order to obtain a building permit.

The barn awaiting repair
The zoning law lists a number of things that you can do with any given parcel broken down by category. Each categorical list has, at the end, something like "and any other use deemed compatible by the Board of Adjustment." That's where the conditional use permit comes in. The BoA looks at what you want to do, solicits and listens to public testimony regarding the idea and then either denies the request or gives it a conditional approval.

In the case of the DV shelter, a number of local people decided that they didn't like having the shelter in their neighborhood, and mounted a protest against the granting of the new conditional use permit. After the heated discussions cooled down, the BoA denied the request for a permit saying that the shelter would have to be located somewhere else. Had they left the debris from the fire in place, and gone down to get a permit to repair the building, then none of this would have been triggered.

Learning how the system works and insuring that Windward doesn't fall into this sort of trap takes a lot of time and attention. This isn't the sort of thing that one expects to get deeply involved in when going "back to the land," but many an intentional community has run smack into a wall because they didn't pay attention to how the system works. In the short run, you can get a way with all kinds of things; in the long run, do it right or don't do it at all.

Our temporary dairy barn
So, for more than a year, we've left the barn pretty much as it was. We've used aircraft cable, large turnbuckles and come-alongs to jack the roof structure back into shape as best we could, but storm #2 ended any hope of being able to limp along over last winter. So after surveying our limited options, we cleared out a space, erected one of the 16'x32' military tents, and created "Camp Sunshine." While it was cramped, it did the job and got the herd through the winter.

Well, the county has granted us a permit to rebuild the barn, and the funding is in place, so we're now in the process of trearing out the damaged trusses, taking down the walls and clearing out the space. The rebuilt barn will feature a more standard roof, a concrete retaining wall and better ventilation. It's essentially the same space, but certain remedial issues are being addressed so that a future storm won't damage the building again.

Our barn's new design
For those interested in the details of what we're going to be building, I've scanned in a copy of our building permit. While this shot shows the general shape of what we're going to be putting up, there's a lot of detail that doesn't come through on an image this small.

The complete building permit image is 111K.

After the debris is cleared away, the first task will be to lay the foundations for the center poles and for the retaining wall. Stay tuned for developments.

Index for Notes Issue # 57 ---- The Windward Home Page