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The article correctly points out the huge advantages of "vesting" a permit application for the whole project. In many jurisdictions, projects that whose applications have been correctly submitted are "grandfathered" when the local government decides to "change the rules".

But in some jurisdictions, there are permitting advantages to a phased project. For example, Seattle requires that projects that pave, unpave, or otherwise change drainage of more than a threshold amount of land perform various "mitigation" measures. These mitigation measures can give property rights to the city, use less durable paving, and/or place artificial swamps on the property. In some situations, an unphased project will exceed the threshold, but each phase of a phased project will be smaller than the threshold. By phasing the project (in such a situation), the "mitigation" measures can be avoided.

Other jurisdictions have laws saying projects that exceed a threshold dollar value or square footage are subject to extra fees and regulations. In these jurisdictions, phasing a project can save money and hassle.

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Mason Williams

The article does a good job of exploring the intricacies of the decision-making process behind phased construction projects. It is good to see all the benefits and challenges of this issue

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Well it's been 10 years since I posted here, and we're now living in our "phased", albeit yet incomplete, forever-build. With our architect's help we designed a 2-story house and left the top floor unfinished with only interior wall studs and insulation. The build went well overall as our GC had our backs in dealing with the subs, making them come back and fix mistakes (which usually resulted from their not looking at the plans) before they were paid. We also did the bare minimum in several spaces on the main level - pantry, laundry, master closet - postponing the finishing-out with shelves and built-ins as well as other smaller projects, to complete later ourselves.

As we had flooring and painted walls in these main-level spaces, all of these passed inspection; but the snag happened at CoO time, when our lending bank realized that an unfinished upper floor was how it was "supposed" to be, after repeated reports from the inspector about the house being only 50% finished - although he/they should have realized that we could not have finished out the entire house with the amount they loaned us, short of resorting to builder-grade (at best) materials. We had not concealed this aspect of the design, but apparently the blueprints had been shrunk to printer-paper size AND printed in b&w, so that the shading in the upper floor to indicate unfinished living space was missed. We had no plans to default on the loan and leave the bank with a half-complete house to sell, but rather than eat their own mistake they gave us a few options: a) finish the upstairs, i.e., with cheap/temporary materials, b) pay down the loan by a substantial amount or c) something else I can't remember. We had been able to pay for a lot out-of-pocket and happened to be in a good position to go with (b), so that's what we did. I was annoyed that they were making us clean up their mistake, but my husband's perspective was broader as he considered that we were now farther ahead on paying down our loan that we expected to be at this point.

We moved in at the end of July 2021 and had hvac installed upstairs within the first year, partly because my husband wanted to set up a home office. The main-level rooms mentioned above still need to be finished out but are more or less functional, so as we work on those he wants to have the electrical upstairs (where there is a master panel but only outer-wall wiring) completed and proceed as we're able with installing plumbing, walls, doors, flooring etc. After all of the decision fatigue from finishing the main level - which is another good reason to do a phased build - I might(?) be ready to start tackling the upstairs.

Don't know what the take-away should be here; our experience was perhaps unique, but I suppose it's a heads-up to be sure you're on the same page (literally and figuratively) with your lending bank to avoid a potentially impossible choice. We're out in the sticks so county requirements are nil (the property tax assessor didn't even come inside), and apart from the 11th-hour notices that we need to have "x" delivered by next week (which I hadn't even picked out yet) it was relatively stress-free, at least compared to some of the horror stories. I had prayed for a good GC and apparently God delivered, so I think that was a big part of the success. And again we're not finished yet but we're at least proof that it can be done :).


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