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Stop Work Order and Fine for Retaining Wall Replacement in Alpharetta

stop work order city of alpharetta

Last week the city of Alpharetta issued a “stop work order” and a notice of fine in the amount of $5,000.00 for failure to permit a replacement retaining wall.

My sister-in-law is a local construction lawyer, so we sent the notice, along with the facts, for her assistance. Her response was immediate, “Pay the fine!”

Two weeks ago we gathered bids to replace an L-shaped retaining wall that runs along our driveway to the side of our property. The retaining wall is no more than five feet tall at the highest and then tapers down to 3 feet at the lowest part of the wall. So the wall is not very tall which is why we felt having the replacement retaining wall engineered was unnecessary.

Rather than verifying the local retaining wall regulations with our city engineer, we picked the contractor who said what we liked most.

He said that if we maintained the same footprint as the existing retaining wall, the project would be considered routine maintenance and would sidestep all regulations for engineering and permitting. That alone saved $5,500.00!

The bid our “preferred contractor” gave us was 15% less than two retaining wall companies who had also bid. This translated into an additional $2,700.00 of savings. All told, $8,200.00 would remain in our bank account if we chose him! My wife has been after me to renovate our kitchen; the savings would get me half-way there! We signed the bid.

When I returned from work on day 1 of the project, the old worn out wall was gone, and the new wall was already two feet high. What a fool I had been for even considering any of the other contractors! On day 2 it rained, so no work from our guy; but when I returned from work, I found the notice. Obviously, a mistake, after all this was routine maintenance, not new construction. Right? Did our neighbor turn us in? Was it one of the overpriced contractors?

The city informed me the inspector was checking another project close to mine and noticed the work occurring without a permit box present.

“You’ll need engineering and a site plan before you can apply for the building permit,” the city employee explained.

Our contractor was clearly dumbfounded when brought up to speed. After apologizing profusely, he announced site plans and engineering drawings were not services he offered. But he promised to refund some of the down payment when picking up the blocks he had delivered since they were not up to code. (No refund yet, and he stopped returning my calls.)

So, after the fine and the loss of my down payment, the lesson has cost $9,500.00. So much for updating our kitchen! To make matters worse, it rained three days and nights before I could officially hire the new retaining wall contractor. Without the retaining wall in place, a a river of rainwater caused a landslide of red dirt and debris pouring down my neighbor’s lawn! I imagine the cleanup for that to be at least several hundred more dollars. My new contractor has since tarped the area to prevent further property damage.

I urge everyone living within the city limits of Alpharetta, Georgia to learn the laws and regulations of retaining wall replacement before the experiencing humiliation of having to deal with a stop work order or being levied a fined.

S. Terry - Alpharetta, Georgia