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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys. I'm looking to build a camp of my own in 3 to 5 years. By build my own I mean purchase a small parcel of land, have the Amish build me a shell, and finish the inside myself.

Problem is I have no idea where to start. Obviously I need to find the land. But I've heard horror stories of people buying land only to find out that they are not allowed to put a camp on it for one reason or another. I've done some searching around on township websites that is be interested in building in, but they don't really post any regulations that I can find. I cant even find any regulations for things such as an outhouse or well. So does that mean I need to call the township every time I find a property that I may be interested in? What kinds of questions need to be asked?

Thanks for any advice you guys can give. I realize this is still a ways in the future, but id like to have a solid plan going forward.
 

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I would definitely go and speak to someone in person. It is not always easy to do. Be prepared to get interrogated about what you are doing.
Buy as big of a piece of ground as you can. More than you think you will need. If someone can build right up against you, there can be issues that you would never foresee. Giving yourself maximum space can mitigate that.
Where are you primarily looking at?
 

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A couple major points to look at when assessing for building are streams/wetlands and water/sewer. Can't build within 50' of a stream, can't disturb wetlands, and will need sewer/water to build. Water shouldn't be an issue, but a call to a local well driller could be helpful. If the site is perc'd and passed for spetic that's what you're looking for. If it needs a sandmound that'll increase your costs, but still buildable. Most likely public sewer will not be an option. Can't build outhouses anymore so if the site doesn't perc you'll need a holding tank. And you'll need to check the local ordinances to make sure holding tanks and cabins are permitted. For instance, some zoning districts may not allow a recreational use, or similar classification(which a cabin may be considered) and they may only allow holding tanks for recreational uses in the municipality. I was looking at a small landlocked parcel one year that was up for like $3000 dollars and aside from being landlocked it also had the zoning/holding tank dilemma.

Stormwater management is another consideration. Some rural municipalities might not have requirements and others may be so stringent you'll need to budget another 20k-30k for permitting and construction.

Generally, the less professional the municipal website and the shorter or more inaccessible ordinances are townships where permitting is easy and any professional website with lots of resources is a municipality with modern permitting practices. Just because the permitting process is easy though, doesn't mean the logistics will be. Some municipalities are only open a couple days a week for a few hours at a time, if you need to collect or drop off documents.

If you come across anything I'd be happy to help with some basic due diligence.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Not opposed to talking to an attorney or working with a realtor, but I'm considering an area that spans 3 or 4 counties: forest (my #1 choice), elk, McKean, maybe venango. That's my dilemma ... I'm assuming they all have different regulations for residential properties. Maybe even different in every township. I guess until I find a property I'm interested in I'll never really know who to talk to.
If anyone who has built a camp in forest or elk county could PM me, id sure appreciate it. Maybe just to get an idea of what requirements you had to meet so I can get an idea of what I'm in for.
 

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All good advice given, when we bought our land we went thru a Real Estate agent. Also went thru a builder for the construction and the township for the septic system and the local electric co-op for the electricity . The builder had someone do the well drilling that he dealt with. Dad knew an excavator to do the site work. It can be timidating but just take one step at a time and it will work out for you.
 

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A competent RE agent will know what local townships will allow and what they won't, as a general rule. Good a place to start as any.

Rural Tioga Co. Twp. my camp is in, doesn't have a ton of regs, but all townships are under the thumb of state regs, like outhouses, on site sewage, etc. Area I'm in, it's pretty much a sand mound if you're going with a septic system. Many rural areas don't impose stringent building restrictions for seasonal dwellings. as opposed to a residence, for example.

Any area served by an electric Co-Op is a good place to choose. Electric bills run me about $30 or less per month, when I'm not using the camp. And the initial cost of getting service is reasonable, compared to other alternatives.

While land adjoining or close to SGLs and SF lands command premium prices, I prefer an area of mixed habitats, like some nearby big woods and lots of Ag lands, if deer and turkey are your primary hunting objectives?. Tends to be better hunting where deer and turkey can prosper, as opposed to little other than big woods to sustain them.

I'm lucky enough to have really great neighbors, most of whom I've know for many decades. Life is good when you have a great spot and no hassles with the neighbors. Only takes one bad neighbor to take things in the wrong direction, but it's often luck of the draw on that one. Good luck!
 

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I looked a a lot for a camp near Ridgeway a few years ago that had a half fallen in cabin on it. When I called the permit guy to find what I could do with the lot and building a cabin, he was funny. The cabin response was " Let's say your fixing up the old cabin" I asked about septic/outhouse he asked if there was a outhouse, I said not that I could see. He responded " Let's say there is a old outhouse to fix up, just might need a tank." Ended up missing out on it by a day but I liked him!
 

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Not opposed to talking to an attorney or working with a realtor, but I'm considering an area that spans 3 or 4 counties: forest (my #1 choice), elk, McKean, maybe venango. That's my dilemma ... I'm assuming they all have different regulations for residential properties. Maybe even different in every township. I guess until I find a property I'm interested in I'll never really know who to talk to.
If anyone who has built a camp in forest or elk county could PM me, id sure appreciate it. Maybe just to get an idea of what requirements you had to meet so I can get an idea of what I'm in for.
County lines mean nothing to either attorneys or realtors. Attorneys are licensed for the entire state and realtors are as well. There are real estate listings that all realtors use when they are looking for a specific property.
 

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This sort of takes the conversation in a different direction BUT, we used to pull travel trailers to our land. Then we finally built a camp. Oh how I miss the days of the travel trailers. I’m not being sarcastic. We had three nice campers and a mess tent. And when deer season was over we hauled it all home. Now we have a camp that is empty 300+ days a year. Our camp is 17 years old now and I feel like every time we go we end up dealing with an issue (water heater, leaks, etc.). Meanwhile I have a nice camper parked at home in my driveway. Now all that being said, our group is small, loves to be outside no matter the weather, and mainly just uses it for hunting. If you want to spend a lot of time there (I.e. retired and plan to be up a lot through the year etc) or you have a big group of guys then ignore my post. Build a camp. But I miss the simplicity of hauling camp home. 😂
 

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Also, I with a lot of camps selling out maybe you could find an existing one for a very reasonable price. From some of the horror stories on here, you would still need to research your situation. What with all the regs, bad neighbors, etc.
 

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With my luck I'd find something I liked, then pick the worst neighbor to talk to first and he'd tell me all the other neighbors were nuts?

o_O

I go out towards Lyman Run SP every Memorial Day weekend to visit grand parents' graves. There are areas out there on the West Branch with lots of camps close to each other, that've been there for over 70 years. Often look at the crowds on the way by and wonder what it would be like having that many camp neighbors and how they all get along?

OTOH, a Potter cousin had a camp for years in a hollow near the NY line, that was pretty much all camps, some close together. They were a tight knit bunch all those years and got along well, with some great friendships?

Pretty sure I like my situation much better, where the closest neighbor is over a quarter mile in each direction?
 

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All good advice on here! One thing I would add is when you finally get to the building point go bigger than what you think you will need. We are currently working on our 3rd addition to the cabin in a 4 year span. If I would have had time to really think about it from the start and what I really wanted to use it for, I wouldn't have had to add additions, haha.
 

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Also to expand on Tater86`s suggestion make sure your septic system is large enough to handle your current cabin and any further expansions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for all the advice!

Is a full septic system required or can I just go with a holding tank?
 

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I believe you will find that very few jurisdictions / Sewage Enforcement Officers in Pennsylvania will give you a permit for a holding tank for a new construction cabin.
 

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I think they will IF using just an outhouse. If use inside bathroom with waste water from sinks and shower , you`ll need a septic system or sand mound. If I understand it right , could be wrong. Call and talk to your local Sewer Enforcement Officer or township office.
 
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