DARTMOUTH (WBSM) — A Dartmouth family hoped to turn their small home into a multi-generational home suitable for their growing family, but a significant delay in the permitting process cost them their funding.

The family that William Byrd is marrying into has lived in Dartmouth for generations. Their dream was to live on their land together, but their current home, built nearly 100 years ago, needed to be modernized and expanded.

After hiring a contractor to design a home based on his budget, creating site plans for the proposed build, and meeting with both the town's Historical Commission and Conservation Commission, Byrd was confident he was on his way to the home of his family's dreams. With approval for a loan of over $1 million, Byrd's next step, via his builder, was to get a permit to build.

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What should have been a 30-day window for the permit to be issued or denied became a 126-day wait. As a result, Byrd's "window of opportunity" with the mortgage lender closed.

During that time, loan rates spiked over a full percent, adding thousands of dollars per month to the mortgage for which Byrd had been approved.

As the year passed, lenders began lowering loan limits while adding percentages. Byrd's dreams of building his family a multi-generational home were dashed.

The contract involved Dave Silveira of South Coast & Associates, Inc. Silveira said that while it's not the first time the company waited beyond the 30 days for a permit to be issued or denied, Byrd's is the worst case he's seen.

"This is a real-world loss for this client," he said. "The opportunity for him to make his family's land modernized and usable for the next generation was lost."

After two years of asking and two formal appeals, South Coast & Associates was finally able to sit down with the Town Administrator and the Dartmouth Select Board to address what Byrd calls the town's "negligence" on the matter, noting that the town is not managing processes in a way that upholds its own standards.

At that time, Silveira proposed viable changes to the town's permitting processes to help keep this from happening again.

Some of the proposed points include:

  • Paying for a building permit upon issue, not at the time of application. In Byrd's case, $6,000 had to be paid up front when applying. Paying for a permit upon issue would follow the state building code.
  • A flow chart for what happens once the permit is applied for and how it will navigate within the departments.
  • Roofing/siding/window permits should be a same-day issue, similar to how they are handled in New Bedford.
  • Set conference hours where people can call in with questions that need addressing, eliminating phone tag.

"These ideas support the laws, not violate the laws, and work in other cities," Silveira said. "We are not a development-friendly town, and right now, the permit hold-ups cause real problems."

A representative of the Town of Dartmouth Building Department declined comment.

WBSM also reached out to Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes regarding the status of the $100 demolition permit, which was paid for but not issued.

"The Health Department is waiting on the applicant to provide required information related to the potential for asbestos removal," MacInnes said in an email. "The applicant has received notification of this requirement. The Health Department will move forward with their sign off once this is completed by the applicant. With the Town’s online system, applicants can view the status of their permit applications 24/7, they are also notified when any action is taken on their permit."

MacInnes said the building permit was issued Sept. 15, 2023.

At this time, Silveira said that there is a quantifiable loss for everyone involved. Byrd invested upwards of $20,000 in site design, building plans and permits, but his loss is beyond the money, too.

"The systems in place failed us," Byrd said. "We were going to get married once the house was built. We were going to have a small, intimate wedding at the new house so we could celebrate the new house, the marriage, the victory together as a family.

"My fiancé and I were going to start our family after the wedding. Now our wedding and our future family is on hold because our foundation isn't there," he said. "Our life has been put on hold because of the negligence of the town."

Just this past week, an official ruling from the state found that the building commissioner failed to act in the case of Byrd's permit. While Silveira said there's certainly a legal fight that could happen, that costs money, too. They are now trying to get a full refund for the $6,000 permit, which, while issued late, is no longer usable.

Despite the challenges, Byrd's attitude is still one of perseverance.

"I'm trying to manage expectations and emotions from my family as they're still reeling from this," he said. "In life, you're not judged by your successes; you're judged by how you react, so I'm going to just keep going."

Silveira encouraged anyone with a similar story to reach out to him at 774-202-4868.

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