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During the past few months, I have been searching the real estate listings for the perfect home for my family. I think we finally found it! While I was searching, I was surprised at how many homes were described as having possible unpermitted square footage.

Having worked alongside building inspectors for many years, I know that there are some major safety concerns associated with this. With no one inspecting the work, there is no way to ensure that it is code compliant and properly constructed. Not to mention that it could seriously affect one’s ability to sell their house in the future as banks are typically not willing to lend money for homes with unpermitted work. This usually results in permits and inspections being requested before closing the sale. Permits issued after the work has been done are double the normal fee. And what many people don’t realize is that the finished product will have to be torn out to reveal rough-in and framing work, which will have to meet the current code to be approved. This can be a very costly mistake.

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We in Raleigh love our trees! In fact, the City of Oaks has been a "Tree City USA" for 25 years or so. The City has adopted regulations to help preserve and conserve its trees. The tree conservation requirements, in general, concern existing stands of trees and individual trees required to be preserved based on their size, stand density, and location on the property. The regulations apply to many residential and commercial development projects in Raleigh's planning jurisdiction.

Some of the City's tree conservation regulations, found in Article 9.1 (Tree Conservation) of the UDO, were affected when the UDO was adopted. In an effort to simplify the process and be consistent with the UDO, staff updated the list of standardized  names for tree conservation areas. The names are now less-wordy and easier to use on development plans and plats.  The required Tree Conservation Data Sheet was also revised to reflect the name changes.

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I recently blogged about the Online Development Center (ODC), a web application that allows contractors to manage their permits and inspections online. It also provides information about development plans and public improvement projects, Certificates of Occupancy, permit history, and plan-review comments.

Since that post was published, we have completed some enhancements to the ODC which will improve its functionality. The first is a result of SB 468, approved by the N.C. General Assembly back in 2013. The law states that no more than one permit shall be required for the complete installation or replacement of any natural gas, propane gas, or electrical appliance on an existing structure when the work is performed by a person licensed in all trades necessary to complete the work.

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Whether you’re a Raleigh resident looking for basic property information, or a commercial developer preparing to submit a complete application package, iMaps can help you find the most current and accurate information available.

iMaps (Internet Multi-Access Parcel System) was developed by Raleigh GIS and Wake County GIS in an effort to provide the general public with easy access to City and County graphic and attribute databases. Users can search by owner name, address, place of interest or intersection and retrieve a variety of maps and property information.

Before beginning any project, we recommend that you conduct a little research to ensure that what you are submitting is accurate. The amount of information required at intake will depend on the type and complexity of the project. Each process has a unique set of submittal requirements to ensure a thorough review without unnecessary delays resulting from a lack of information.

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Where do you go to network with friends or colleagues? Many do this online, via social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. If you’re like me, you have a Facebook account for keeping in touch with family and friends. Maybe I am a late bloomer, but I only ventured into Twitter territory about a year ago. I quickly learned that it is great for exchanging quick, frequent messages and keeping those that follow you in the loop. So I took a quick Twitter tutorial (try saying that three times really fast…) and use it regularly to keep our customers informed.

At last check, @RaleighPlanning had about 2600 followers on Twitter. Now considering that there are more than 288 million users worldwide, and more than 500 million tweets are sent each day, our following is certainly modest. But it is growing every week and that is exciting!

Thanks to Twitter, we can communicate with you real-time. A great example of this is LIVE tweeting from City Council meetings.

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The City’s Street Design Manual was first adopted back in 2013 as a technical supporting document of the UDO. With the understanding that there is a critical link between land use and transportation, the design guidelines provide for coordinated development with necessary facilities to serve and protect all users of Raleigh’s transportation system. The manual includes excerpts from different codes, including those from Transit, Solid Waste, Trees, and other related subjects.

While the manual has provided clarity on some topics, we’ve gotten feedback that the document is not as “user friendly” as it could be which prompted its first update. Underway since last October, the update is intended to improve functionality by creating a “smart document.” In other words, it will be enhanced to include hyperlinks to applicable UDO sections, City construction standards, and other related webpages.

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