So it turns out there is an amount of time after which Thurston county start billing for their time. It states on the application that there is a process for billing, but as with every other part of the process it’s incredibly opaque. There is no indication as to what is include or excluded in their billable process.
Apparently (we have worked out from the bill) they allow 2 hours of time for a site planning application. Working back from this we think we know what application type they’ve grouped us under, which we don’t understand because it doesn’t relate to the fee we paid, but from that we can apparently get 2 hours of resource stewardship time. After that they bill over $180/hr – for, it seems, any activity. Breathing may be included.
At no point did they tell us that we’d run out of ‘included’ time. We discovered this last night when our landlord brought over the mail. In it was bill for hundreds of ‘billable’ dollars, that we had no idea they were charging us. Most of this is answering e-mails with questions attempting to work out what the hell they want from us, one e-mail alone is over $90. This is insanity.
Not least because they’ve asked for things it turned out they didn’t need – so, in fact, they’re billing us for doing stuff that’s wrong. That said, the woman who is in charge of our application is under the impression that if she understands what she wrote, everyone should get her interpretation of the words. So she would no doubt claim that when it said in a letter we needed to submit this thing, but ten subsections later there was the word “but” in parentheses, it is clear to everyone that the thing it looked like she was requesting (which incidentally costs $thousands) was only required in a specific set of circumstances.
The whole process is a nightmare. It’s enough of a nightmare that it makes me miss British planning departments who are arcane and crazy restrictive, but at least have the basic fucking decency to tell you up front that they are, and post the incredible, crazy, restrictive stuff where you can see it.
The end result of this is we’ve been billed hundreds of dollars – and may get more bills, because we don’t know which bits they’re going to bill for because they won’t fucking tell us.