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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in a factory that was converted into condos about 15 years ago. about 10 feet outside the back door of my condo is a set of railroad tracks for when the railroad cars used to deliver materials to the factory. As such, my unit is about the height of the railroad carriage above the tracks (roughly 5 feet). Across from the railroad tracks is a large mound of dirt (about 5 feet tall) that defines the elevation for the parking lot and everything past it. So, visualize a ravine about 5-10 feet deep and 20 feet wide between my house and the parking lot.

There is no retaining wall on the other side of the tracks and gentle erosion has made the area slope considerably. The owners are getting ready to put in the new parking lot, but I am sure it will be a mess if there is no retaining wall.

Originally we were not allowed to build on the tracks because the neighborhood had plans to have a public walking mall. That has since been scrapped.

Since the parking lot is much higher than this area, it becomes a swamp during hard rains. It drains out one end of the track area into the outdoor area of the attached restaurant where it pools and sits until it can be absorbed.

When I asked about filling in the ravine with dirt, the owners were afraid of affecting the runoff and causing the water to pool in the neighbor building's back yard--flooding their basement.

I recently had the idea of putting in a railcar that could be made into a pool. Water could run under the railcar for responsible runoff and the deck could be expanded to wrap around the new car.

How do I go about determining the permit requirements to do something like this? How can I show adequate runoff and what all should I consider before suggesting this to the homeowners association?

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration, I realize this is kind of an open box of worms. I just need to be pointed in the right direction.
 

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This sounds like a very complicated situation with a lot of moving parts. Probably beyond the realm of free advice, but nevertheless fun for me, which is why I google mapped it. The only thing I could see close to your description is Walker St/Aristocrat parking.

I applaud a very out-of-the-box solution, a rail car for a pool with a buit-up platform around it, so whatever runoff below the deck can continue without being seen. Pretty cool thinking. In terms of permitting a railcar, I would guess probably not be too involved beyond the deck and making it function like any other pool, and the access and crane to bring one in. The bigger issue is probably with the condo insuring it and having new bylaws that manage it.

The things that crossed my mind are:
- is the water coming from the existing adjacent commercial parking lot, because any paved area has to address storm, with calculations and provisions for on-site detention
- who is putting in the new parking lot, or is it an extension of existing, and should have same calcs, not to mention the civil engineer or even paving contractor will notice and not want washout next to the lot
- the abandoned rail, still has easements, are those part of your building or another, or none of them
- the grade elevations of railways are usually right-on with respect to (original) contours, it would have connected to the main rail line before, so what has changed/blocked to affect drainage of the abandoned portion
- is the condo just your building, or part of a larger planned unit development that controls the railroad "yard" as common space
- is there a specific person in the city who can act a liason between economic/business (re: swamp being detrimental to business and redevelopment in that area) and engineering dept. to help with the storm drainage
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Can I just say, "WOW" you are brilliant and generous for your reply. Thank you so much.

You were completely accurate in your assessment of the location and though I am a little creeped out, I applaud your efforts. Amazing, really.

I have attached a Google Maps screen shot. What's happening is they are moving the existing parking lot to where they "back yard" area used to be.

I figured while they did this, I would see about putting in a traincar.

They guys who are the owners of the restaurant and the first condo (right next door--with an attached interior door) are the people responsible for the changes. They have bobcats out digging up the yard and clearing out the area that used to be a pottery shop (right behind the new parking area). They own all of the land for the parking lots and everything but the building. We have decks on the backs of our units that technically belong to them, though they let us do whatever we want.

There are a total of 5 units in our building. 3 of which face the back and would be directly affected by the changes. One of which belongs to the guys doing the changes. Their priority is taking down the existing pottery shop and resurfacing our previous backyard to provide secure parking.

I can't emphasize how great these guys are. They are totally open to ideas and I am just trying to have my ducks in a row before approaching them as a matter of respect. I really appreciate your help on this.

In the overview map, I have marked the pink circle to show that the railroad tracks ended there with a turnaround. The developers were supposed to save that for this pedestrian mall, but didn't and everything got put on hold. The green part that lines up with the tracks all the way up to the restaurant parking lot is currently a pedestrian walkway/driveway of sorts. It was supposed to extend through our area, but that has all been changed.

Also the parking lot pours into our neighbor's yard and a lot of water runs down the tracks to pool in NoMas' courtyard where it is either absorbed or somehow drains into the storm drainage system.

Once I get an idea of just what it would take to manage this, I will approach them and we'll see if they think it would be viable. If so, we'll work out the details. So any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks again.
 

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Just a quick comment, but over the years of sitting through many planning board meetings I have realized that the same architects show up repeatedly representing projects in my town and they are really familiar with our building requirements and the planning board members. Finding one like that in your community would really help to screen your ideas and if it went ahead maybe a foot in the door.

Picking an architect out of the phone book would be hit or miss and maybe a bunch of money wasted.

Bud
 

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What problems are you trying to solve ?

If it’s keeping your feet clean, I’d go for a bridge structure between your deck and the new parking lot.

What is this pool ? Is it just to hold water runoff temporarily, or are you thinking swimming pool?
 

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My mind focused on using a railcar as a pool. Are we talking about a swimming pool or some kind of water retention pond? Beyond the cost to purchase a car and move it to the site, if a swimming pool is intended, it is hard for me to imagine the amount of engineering that would be required to obtain municipal and health department approvals. You simply can't cut the top off a tank car and call it a pool (any other type of car would drive the cost up even more). If simply a retention pond, I guess I'm not envisioning the elevations involved.
 

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I don't really understand how they can just raise grade and extend the paving without dealing with storm water, and I also don't quite understand how they own up to the back of the condo including your decks. However I'll just take it at face value and offer another perspective.

They want to increase parking, but they aren't going to sacrifice their outdoor courtyard. You say you have a "condo," which to me says you own a part of the building. But at any time, it sounds like they could remove your decks, fill in over the lower tracks, and extend parking right up to the back of your condo.

So . . . to retain your investment, you need to figure out how to guarantee you'll have a deck and at least some landscaping (if not walkable garden) to view. The combo NoMas/condo owner should want the same thing. The traincar as a pool doesn't seem viable with only 5 units, and wouldn't be utilized by their customers.

What are ways that their customers can use the whole length of track/garden to keep it there? A traincar fits the vibe, but only if it was used as another display room like the pottery tent was before. A flatcar or push cart that can be used to display outdoor stuff, or be a stage for a garden seating area that they can use or rent for parties?

The water I don't know how to address, it can only flow downhill and it seems the parking lot is in the way. But I would want some landscaping. I would think they would want some sort of retaining wall so the pavement can extend farther to the edge and utilize space more. Maybe one row of large stones and tall grass on the slope (looking just like at their entrance).
 

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@jaseinatl this is fascinating.

I'll add to @3onthetree 's exhaustive thoughts, I've found that old railroad properties are full of legal worms.

I'm here in California, so the R X Rs were evolved differently in different places, but maybe: (a) there might be limits on what you can do; and/or (b) there might be ways to get information that wouldn't otherwise be available.

Had a friend who had a war over his property with an old RR right of way on it. But, California not Georgia. Curious to know if there's any difference.
 
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