Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bella Terra: The Concrete Phase

From Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort, Foley, Alabama     We arrived Friday, April 7th and toured Bella Terra the very next morning. We knew before we arrived that we were likely lot buyers if we liked what we saw. We selected a site during the next three days, signed a contract to purchase it on Thursday, April 13 and closed on the following Friday, April 21. The lot we chose is one of about 30 in the final phase of the development. It's what they call a "Terraced" lot that's adjacent to a heavily wooded area recently designated an Alabama Preserve. 

April 13, 2017
Lot 35-464 Portofino Loop, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores. The ground is dry. It's been weeks since rain has fallen.
Ours is one of just two remaining Phase III Terrace lots along the south side which adjoins this wooded preserve.

By the following Tuesday, I had drawn a first draft of what we wanted built. Measuring  50' x 90', our site is large enough to built any of the available coach house plans. Wayne and I decided on a small Rizzo model with full bathroom and kitchenette. A 12' porch and outside kitchen/bar area will extend from the front door of the casita. A screened gazebo will be built in front of the porch and a campfire area will be near the street with tall privacy foliage in front of it.

Several modifications would be made to this first pencil draft. 
Despite the best efforts of Courtney and the staff at Bella Terra, drawing of the architectural plans became a distasteful experience. Robby Miller, the draftsman, took six weeks to produce this small project on paper. It's a two day project at best.

Two and a half weeks would pass before any lot improvement would commence but here is a picture of the first soil scrape. An "ah ha" moment for sure. David Thompson, the builder, sensed my desperate need to see something....

The ground is broken!  May 10, 2017 
May 15, 2017
Starting the construction footprint.
May 26, 2017
But the thrill from the first scrape of dirt was short lived as something surely angered Mother Nature. In the last half of May she unleashed weeks of rain onto south Alabama. The first two weeks weren't terrible -- rain fell all around but seldom directly onto us.  In early June though, the daily rains began and wouldn't stop. Four rainy weeks came and went. Each morning we watched local weather... most days carried a 40% to 70% chance of rain.

June 2, 2017
Concrete framing begins, but then.... rain delays the progress.
The architects plans were finally completed on June 5 and the construction permit was issued Friday June 16th. David (the builder) is hopeful to get concrete poured the next week.

Yep. Flood zone. 

On Monday, June 19th, Tropical Storm Cindy developed in the Gulf of Mexico and had the Alabama coastline in her crosshairs.  Hours before the rain began, though, plumbers were on site and got the stubbing done. Within a couple hours, the first of Cindy's countless hours of rain began.

June 19th. Rough plumbing complete and ready for inspection.
Rain thwarted inspection which was now delayed until June 29th. 
The deluge Cindy dumped reminded us of our personal Murphy's Law: If it can happen, it will happen. It did happen. One five day period of dry weather followed the rain but construction stood still. I don't know why. I stopped walking and biking in the resort. Construction on our site was being watched and discussed by the summer resident/owners. I was stopped often and questioned as to why we can't move as fast as another site also under construction. I grew frustrated. I got mad. Wayne's spirits were no better and we began to rethink our plan. We gave serious though to selling the lot without going into the casita building phase. Life is too short to worry with construction. Word of a single rant to a neighbor spread quickly to management who carefully waded into my angry world. They only made matters worse with lengthy email timelines and useless lectures about the perils of construction, south Alabama weather and the importance of being a good follower. Ick. Enraged, I fired a scathing email right back and heard no more. I was satisfied but still in favor of aborting the plan.

June 30th. Casita foundation is prepared and forming continues in the mud. 

By June 29th David was finishing the concrete forms for concrete. He asked if I wanted to show him where to lay out the freestyle landscape islands I had planned. I bristled but rode my bicycle to the site to tell him we were not going to move forward beyond where we were legally bound. We would sell the lot. I told him as much. He asked why. I told him. He didn't argue but asked more questions. We talked on and on, reversing the timeline all the way back to the delay caused by the draftsman. It felt good to have someone specific to blame for my frustration. I reassigned my anger.

June 30th. Look closely to see standing muddy water halfway up the lot. It's almost a foot deep on the front slope.
On June 30, our lot was a giant mud hole. David said he would pump it out and he did. Rain came sporadically. The plumbing passed inspection. So did the soil compaction test and the foundation test. David planned to pour concrete on Monday, July 3. His talk reinvigorated my enthusiasm. I rode my bicycle home and told Wayne. Bless his heart. He's happy when I'm happy.  And when I'm unhappy.... well... he is too. Lord, how I love that man.

Our version of "Draining the swamp". Pumping nearly complete. 
Monday, July 3, concrete trucks began rolling into the resort and the beautiful grey liquid poured into the forms. David invited me to oversee placement of the landscape islands he had formed. I stayed and watched the concrete work all day. My spirits soared. The rain seemed to have subsided -- for today anyway.

First truck load of concrete.

A total of five concrete trucks

The casita, golf cart garage and slab for the gazebo are poured first.
David is in the red shirt. He's forming the landscape islands.

Two ramps were built by hand. They are needed to get the golf cart into the garage.

On concrete pouring day, Wayne came by to check on the progress but didn't stay long.
He just wants to see the end result.

Almost finished. Rumor has it these are among the best concrete crews in the county.
Landscape islands can be seen in the middle. One is kidney shape -- the other is round.
Trees will be planted to add character and shade to the concrete pad. 

The concrete crew was great. Finished by mid afternoon.The guy on the right apologetically popped a beer.

Exhausted but still smiling. 

David. Flip-flop wearing Auburn University Alum with Masters Degree with undergraduate degrees in Biology and Finance. Age 27. Unrelenting optimist.  
And that concludes the first part of construction on July 3rd.  Construction of casita comes next. Still a long way to go.... firepit area, gazebo, porch, outside kitchen, landscaping and lighting. It will last all summer and fall, I fear, though the contract completion date is Sept 28th.

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