I suppose the best place to begin is selecting the building sites. The land is about 10 acres, divided into two adjacent parcels with about 800′ of shoreline. As you can see from the picture, the shoreline is abutted by an enormous granite boulder (characteristic of the Laurentian Shield in these parts).
Building codes dictate that structures cannot be located within 100′ of the water line and require a bluff setback of 30′. This means that for all practical purposes, the only suitable building sites are up on top of the rock. There is approximately a 60′ vertical descent from the building sites to the water. This land was completely undeveloped when acquired with no access from the road, so the first order of business was to clear, fill and grade driveways to the building sites.
I was fortunate to find a local crew of equipment operators who had all their machinery nearby for another job, so I was able to split the transportation costs. There was a gravel pit relatively nearby so that was another bit of good fortune as well. It took about 3 days (with a break for the weekend) to clear, fill and grade two driveways or a total length of about 200′. The job required 432 yards of pit fill and 70 yards of gravel. About one-third of the cost was labor for the truck drivers alone so for anybody interested in filling a driveway, hauling distances need to be considered. I found it was also helpful having people familiar with building septic mounds involved because the driveways needed to be situated in a way that would allow for future sewer construction, both in terms of access, setback requirements and distance to the building sites. Another suggestion I took into consideration was how the driveway would accommodate a snow plow in the winter and ultimately went with a loop design for one driveway and a cul-de-sac area at the end of the other. After the driveways were finished, I applied for two highway access permits from the county (the land is along a county road). Success! I now have two driveways with their own fire numbers and three potential building sites cleared. The grade of the driveways is a little steeper than I would have liked, but I feel good that I saved some money and minimized the environmental impact by having the driveways a little shorter. The steeper slope also drains faster and adds some privacy from the road. It remains to be seen how easy it will be to drive up and down in the winter, though.