Tuesday, February 11, 2014

1 day in county makes aneeeeeone crazy (sing to the tune of 1 night in Bangkok)

Not that kind of county.

Is there a poem called "Government, thy name is Bureaucracy ?" No? there ought to be. As many of you know and some might not, we are attempting to build a house in Howard County, MD.

When we started looking, our builder told us the process usually takes a year, 6 months for permits, and 6 months to build. We began in July 2012 .... do you see us in the new house? No? We just got our Site Development Plan (SDP) approved (took 1.5 years, a whole another blog post folks) ... we were told as soon as that's approved, we can submit our building plan. Yippee kai yay! Let's just say I am glad I read the letter that came with the email telling us the SDP was approved.

This letter had the following important things of note:
  • Mentioned a grading permit with a $100 fee that had to be approved before the building permit could be approved. This is NEWS to us.
  • The grading permit needs a surety check of $2400 that we will get back once the County inspects and approves our grading and landscaping 18 months down the road. This is NEWS to us.
  • We need 2 copies of the approved SDP for the grading permit and the building permit.
  • There's a name to contact if we have any questions.
Well, I have questions fo' sho'! So, I call that aforementioned name (I won't mention his name because he was very nice, though not entirely helpful). I ask him the following questions:
  • What is this grading permit now? Answer: "I'm not sure, the permits department deals with that." uh ok, why is your name listed as the person to answer any of my questions? Nevermind, onto the next ...
  • Where do I get copies of the SDP? Answer: "Large format printing."
  • He did very nicely transfer me to the permits folks, where I was told where to find the form for the grading permit.
I print the form out and my eyes start crossing over at things like "how many square feet of soil are you disturbing ..." uhh what? thankfully, somebody was able to provide that answer. Onto the next field "What are you planning to do with the land?" Uhh didn't the SDP show you we are building a house? After a couple calls back to the permits department, I was able to finish the form to the best of my knowledge and ability (whch is to say in this case, maybe a kindergartener). Now, I just have to go in, get copies of our SDP, take that, the form and a check to the permits folks.

Ok, easy enough! I gird my loins, make sure I have my checkbook and firstborn to pay them with, beg/borrow/steal quarters from coworkers so I can park close in the freakin' cold, forewarn Jeff to keep his kidney warm in case of the need for bail money and OFF I go! Skippety-dippety-do!

Enter the labyrinth.Ok, not entirely true, their departments are clearly marked and very bright. I sign in at the guard desk, get directions to the large format print shop and head down. Let's call them my STOP 1. Wonderful, funny guy at STOP 1 tells me I need to go to Customer Service Desk to have my order written up; I ask him where that might be and if that's where I usually pay them with my sweat and tears? He shrugs and says, it's upstairs with desks. Really? Don't all departments get desks? now, I feel bad for all those office folk who have to work without a desk.

I go back upstairs to where I usually write out checks by stabbing my finger and using my blood. Let's call this STOP 2. the lady here is also not knowledgeable as to where their Customer Service Desk is. I mention SDP and her face lights up like a poor kid who's seen Santa for the first time. She points me to the room next door.

So, I make my way to STOP 3. As soon as I mention copies of an SDP, this lady whips out a form and starts filling it out. Bells start ringing, I see angels floating down with harps and bright white diapers ... so I double down and ask her about chicken coops in my backyard. She types on a keyboard, she pulls out a folder, she grabs a page, photocopies it and hands it to me. I kiss her in gratitude.

Ok, I didn't kiss her or I'd be in jail now. So, now I bid farewell to STOP 3 and head over to STOP 2, where I pay. Then I head back down to STOP 1, where the funny guy makes my copies, all the while expressing his amazement that the departments would ask for copies when everything is online. Oh, wait, maybe the title of that poem/book should be "Government, thou hast 2 faces - Bureaucracy & Redundancy!"

Now, I take my copies and head back upstairs to a brand new place filled with sunshine. This is the department that handles permits, let's call them STOP 4. A lady helps me immediately. She tells me to write a check for $105 (not what the letter stated) and mentions that we probably don't have a surety. I show her the letter and state I'd rather sell my limbs and give her the $2400 than have my permits delayed any longer. She folds up 2 copies of my SDP, attaches my 2 checks to them, looks at my form and hands me another form to fill out that has the same information on it and a couple extra fields. Upon questioning if this is a new version of the form I downloaded from their site, I am informed that no, this is a form that another group needs. Apparently, sharing forms is frowned upon. You don't know what you could catch. So, I fill out this new form, once again encountering some alien language asking me how far are wetlands and perennial streams from our land ... I look at her confused. She tells me I have to take all of this back to STOP 3 and they'll help me fill it out. I walk on back to STOP 3, where the same nice lady from before helps me, but she doesn't know the alien language either. She calls on another person who looks at the SDP and tells me to put N/A. I hope he was right. They sign the papers and I walk back to STOP 4, hand everything over and am assured this should be done in a week.

And I walked outside to see pigs flying and leprechauns dancing over pots of gold. Or, it was hallucinations caused by being inside that building for 45 minutes.

Folks, this was 1 day, out of the last 1.5 years, in the life of dealing with this county for permits to build our house. We are coming up on 2 years soon enough with no end in sight. And I've had to give up sugar and alcohol through this ordeal. Is there no end also to the torture life will throw at me?

Oh, btw, yes, we can have 8 chickens in our backyard!

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