One of the first things to consider, if you plan to build on property that is not connected to a city or county sewage system, is whether or not your property will perc. We had many people ask us what on earth that means, which is exactly what I asked when we first started looking for property. My only prior reference to the word had to do with visits to my grandparents house, waking up to the aromatic smell and sound of coffee brewing in their old coffee percolator. (A very fond memory I might add!) But no, completely unrelated…If you have no local sewage system to connect to, you will be needing to put in a well and a septic system. As stated in everyone’s favorite web source, Wikipedia, “A percolation test (from percolation, colloquially called a perc test) is a test to determine the absorption rate of soil for a septic drain field or ‘leach field’.” Assuring that we would be able to put in a septic system was a must before we would sign the final contract for the property, so a lot was riding on our perc test.
The first thing we had to do was go down to the Dinwiddie County Building Department, located in the Administrative building, to pay a zoning fee in order to apply for the construction permit that would allow us to put in the necessary systems should the land actually perc. Dave took the day off and we drove down together. We found the Administrative building easily…all of the government offices are located in one area off of Boydton Plank Rd. We walked into the building and, as we were looking around for the building department, a young man dressed in a suit walked up and asked us if we needed help. We explained what we were there for and he introduced himself as the County Administrator, shaking each of our hands in turn…. just as friendly and willing to help us out as one would have expected walking into the Mayberry Administrative office on the Andy Griffith show. He happily walked us over to the appropriate office (which we never would have found on our own) and introduced us to the two men chatting in the room. One happened to be the local fire chief, who also shook each of our hands and proceeded to ask where our property was (yes, he knew the land in question) what we were planning to build, where we were from, etc. and welcomed us to Dinwiddie as prospective new residents. May I just say, that dealings with any type of government office employees prior to this, in no way prepared either of us for such a friendly encounter.
After chatting for awhile with our new BFFs, we filled out the necessary paperwork, wrote our $50 check and headed over to the Health Department next door to apply for the construction permit. However, as we approached the Health Department, we realized that it was empty and figured that in all likelyhood it had been moved to the giant trailer located just beyond, despite the fact that there were no signs to tell us this. We took a shot and entered one of the unmarked doors of the trailer and found ourselves in the midst of the WIC waiting room with several young mothers and their infants. I myself would have just turned around and walked out, but fortunately, Dave had the sense to at least ask if we were in the right place, as it turns out that we were. Here we dropped off the necessary paperwork, which included a drawing of the property with the proposed homesite, septic and well sites marked, paid another $750 and were told that we would recieve a letter from the County as soon as they had the results from the perc test. This was back in January and the weather was rather nasty and rainy…I’m pretty sure it had been raining or snowing for forty days and forty nights at this point so figured it would be weeks before anyone would make in out to the property to do the test.