The Motel 6 in Silver City is in a good location if you have dogs and prefer to walk them for more than 30 seconds for a micro-bathroom break. Since we have them in the car so much, we try to give them long, interesting walks to engage their brains and exercise their legs.
The motel is located along a pretty busy road so we have been avoiding it during walks. Instead, we have been walking up the hill, through the Comfort Inn parking lot and then taking a right up Mountain View Road. At 7:00am in the morning, there is little traffic on the road and we are able to get to our dirt turnoff without issue.
At the crest of Mountain View, is a dirt road that seems to meander about for no reason. A few dirt roads connect along the way and they all seem to terminate at a fence or ridge. While walking around through the area, we got the sense that nobody would be bothered by our presence.
Dog walks in the bandit camp
The scattered clumps of garbage objects, broken glass and fire pits make the area feel like an abandoned bandit camp. We saw several interesting things along our walks, both alive and dead. The strangest find was the entire spine of some animal. Our best guess is that it is most likely a mule deer skeleton. We haven’t seen a lot of other large animals shambling about.
The dogs also collected many burrs in the pads of their feet. Sydney rarely seemed deterred by it, probably because she is primarily focused on being in front of everybody, pulling, running in every direction as fast as possible or a combination of all three. Trooper, on the other hand, would start limping at the first poke. As soon as I approached him to remove the burr, he would lift the afflicted foot and wait for me to remove it. How kind of his royal majesty…
We also saw many crows. One morning we saw a loose flock of at least fifty flying energetically around the top of Mountain View. It was wild to see. While some may be alarmed by the sight of so many crows, in some cultures, the crow is considered a sign of good luck or viewed as an ally.
Planning our final Silver City land search
After breakfast at Nancy’s Café and a drive around town, we enjoyed our butter coffee in the room with Fred. It was a good opportunity to complete our internet research and list the potential properties we wanted to see before leaving. We called the realtors that had been on the lot signs from the day before and winnowed a big list down to a subset of truly viable options.
In Silver City, there is no centralized location for information regarding which areas have minimum size requirements. There are rules for each subdivision and those rules are occasionally listed online. However, a town hall representative was not able to simply tell us in which areas we should look. The order of events for property qualification was such –
- Find interesting property online or by driving around
- Call realtor and ask if there are any covenants or deed restrictions on the property (i.e. minimum building size requirement)
- Sometimes they would know offhand; most of the time the realtor would dig around and get back to us
- Because we are site-building, any sub-division that does not have a minimum size requirement is a potential option. This ‘filter’ narrowed it down to one certain subdivision west of town – Wind Canyon Estates.
The areas that fall outside of subdivisions or that are governed by the county have potential because they do not have rules governing build size. The most promising classification is ‘unrestricted’, which means anything goes – mobile, site-built, tall, small, etc. The only concern with this category is that you can find your home located next to unkempt neighbors. If you can build whatever you want, then you can likely keep your lawn however you’d like. This is part of the rationale behind subdivisions – the property developer creates protectionist rules as part of the sale’s pitch. As a buyer, you purchase this guarantee regarding the attractiveness of properties around your home and future home values.
In any case, even with gnarly neighbors, if we found a piece of land big enough, we could plant ourselves in the middle and not worry about anybody else.
Getting serious about the search
The realtors helped eliminate every single lot except for 5 (with our nicknames for them in parentheses) – two were in unrestricted zones along the highway just outside of town (“Highway wilderness” & “Behind the Church”); one was en route to the dump, on the edge of a subdivision (“Tallest bird”); one was in town but not in a subdivision (“Cindy’s Neighbor”); the final one was 5 miles outside of town in the only subdivision to allow small homes (“Breezy Boulevards”).
Highway Wilderness (3.43 acres) & Behind the Church (5 acres)
We spent a lot of time examining the borders on the highway properties. Both properties were big and were being offered at a great price. It was challenging to know where the property lines were because nothing was marked. The realtor was able to give us dimensions but no clarity as to where the neighbor’s line ended. We figured we’d collect maps later and do a walkthrough first.
Neither were on public utilities but both seemed laid out well for septic drainage (sloping land, sandy soil and no major bodies of water). The only way to investigate water well potential would be to speak to the neighbors or possibly companies in town who might be familiar with the area.
Brian remarked that Highway Wilderness felt like a desert ecosystem exhibit at a museum – there was incredible plant diversity (cacti, frond plant things, junipers, grass), separated with hard gravel/dirt which had a manicured aquarium-gravel feel to it.
Because of the proximity to the highway, sound and noise is a concern. Both properties have some hill action so it seems we might be able to build on the other side of the hill and it wouldn’t be an issue. Proximity to town is great – outside the congestion but close enough that everything is still convenient.
Tallest Bird (2 acres)
After checking out the highway properties, we drove to a property that was near one of our nighttime jaunts from the night before. The road was paved all the way to the driveway. This driveway went up a very steep hill and leveled off on top, leaving plenty of space to build a house and loom over all our neighbors. It was cool. Not the same diversity as Highway Wilderness but still plenty of plants for privacy.
There appeared to be public utilities at this location, which was a definite plus. It likely explained why this lot, the second smallest of our batch, was the most expensive. The only reason we considered it was because our options were so few to start with and the realtor had strongly implied that in this buyer’s market, we could likely strike a great deal.
Noise wouldn’t be an issue and it was certainly nice to have a paved road. This property was very different from either of the highway options.
During our visit to the town hall (more on this later), we learned that this property is only 2ish miles from both the dump and the prison. It lost some of its appeal at that point…
Cindy’s Neighbor (1.25 acres)
Upon arriving at this property, we promptly met Cindy. Had she not arrived on the scene, we would have likely missed out on much of its appeal. She helped show us how far back the property went – it had a stream running through it, a high clearing and then another stream as the back of the lot.
It has a lot of charm – good views, the creeks, easy driveway access (once you traverse the steep washout on the road leading to the area). The neighbor was nice. All in all it felt like a good campsite.
Unfortunately, because of the location of the streams, the proximity of neighboring septic systems and the pervasive ledge, this property could make for a tricky for septic system installation. There is no city sewer available.
Water was a different story – Cindy was under the impression that the city might not extend water to this lot. We later cleared up the issue at the town hall where we learned that they aren’t going to bring water to a vacant lot. Should we desire to hook up to the public utilities at that location, we would merely have to pay the normal fees.
Lastly, the road leading to this lot was rough. It is unpaved and has several steep segments with ruts from floods. To approach the property, we parked the car before one such rut and walked the rest of the way in.
Breezy Boulevard (10.6 acres)
This was a very cool property and was being offered at a great price. It was only a ~7 minute drive from town but had the feeling of total seclusion. The terrain was diverse – areas of flatness as well as a deep gulch to a dry creek bed. We would have several options for building and absolute privacy.
Houses were already built on the two huge plots to either side of us, ensuring we wouldn’t be in for any unpleasant surprises in the future.
Southern exposure was good (not fantastic but very good) so passive solar would be fine.
We were way clear of city utilities but we received word from the realtor that both neighbors had drilled wells to 700 feet and hit water on the first try.
This property was the first to strike us as having real ‘wow’ potential. It checked all the boxes in terms of natural beauty, convenience, cost…but most importantly, it really felt like it could be our next home. Something seemed right about it and captured the imagination.