Thurston County Planning Saga

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.

Incidentally

This site (at in my web server)  has been under attack a lot recently. Tediously so. If anything super weird pops up on here I’m sorry, and I’ll fix it as soon as I know. 

I am sure that I am not the first

I am somewhat concerned that members of the Russian federation are going to use the fact they have a puppet / weak / blackmailable US president who has weakened western government cooperation, and the Brexit which has weakened and distracted Europe to commit mass genocide on LGBTQIA people. 

Each time it gets worse.

Animated image from 'Brazil' by Terry Gilliam.

So, it turns out that now our county planning technician is asking us to obtain a surveyor’s report to delineate the high groundwater risk for our property. Because the county think it’s at risk of flooding. Despite the fact that it’s almost the highest point for the entire street. But no, it’s at risk of flooding.

Today we went out because the hydrogeologist has put markers in the areas he would like us to identify the high groundwater risk, when we went out he strongly implied there was no significant problem. But left open the ‘We need to have an internal discussion before making a decision’ get out of jail free card.

And then we got our answer.

It’s a fucking disaster.

The county requirements would force us to move our house to chop down at least 1 of the beautiful old maples (at least 50 years old), and a large number of firs, cedars and assorted other trees. At least, that’s the only way we can interpret them.

The county is also asking for a permit that requires has a potential 128 day processing period (which probably means at least 2 years, given that our 8-12 week permit process is now running into it’s 6th month).

So the answer is, we can’t build.

We might be able to argue it. We’re considering legal options because the county told us, provisionally, that it would be an easy plot to build on.

So yay.

So that is very, very depressing.

So today we got an answer, of sorts, from the county.

They can’t give us a timeline. They disagree with our wetland biologist’s assessment of the water that was on our site on the day that we visited.

And clearly any complaints we send are passed directly to the person we’re complaining about, because when we ask questions in our complaints, the answers come from the person we’re complaining about. So that feels highly professional.

As it stands we have 2, maybe 3 weeks before we won’t be able to build this year, with no sign of a permit, and in fact an increasing feeling that we’ve bought a lemon, and lost about $80,000 on land that’s not worth shit. And that makes me feel like I’ve let my dad down, because the majority of that money came from inheritance when my dad died. And I feel like I’ve squandered it.

Tonight also brought the bonus realisation that if we can’t build this year, we may not be able to do it at all. At least, not in the foreseeable future.

Which is all fucking depressing.

So really, fuck them.

So that was my day.

Oooh, shiny.

So I ordered another Razika album (direct from Norway, because no one locally could get it) which arrived yesterday.

Razika - På Vei Hjem (Album cover)
Cover from Razika – På Vei Hjem

It’s on white vinyl and handily came with a CD copy. So that’s pretty easy to rip. The white vinyl and my SL-6 are not close friends, I have to turn off the autosense mode for it to play the record… but even ignoring that, yay! Yay for more Razika.

I need to stop buying records however* because I’m nearly** out of record storage space

Also, what is overjoyously cool is hearing those few words I understand and going “Yay! I understood that!”

* I may have bought a second hand Desmond Dekker record a couple of days ago, having listened to him on 6 Music and having realised I didn’t have enough…
** By which I mean that all the gramophone records are packed away in storage because there’s not enough space in the house, and despite that, the shelves are kinda full. Full in an ‘oh, I might need to obtain a new record storage thing. Or make one. I’d love to make one. If only there was more time!

Not a disaster, but not a raging success

So it’s Spring Break here, which I get the impression should be capitalised. I continue to believe that the US does holidays wrong. It’s not like the UK is any great winner on the holidays front, the rest of Europe has always been way better at that kind of stuff, but the UK is less terrible than the US by a long way.

I say this because the students (and staff) get one week off between winter and spring quarters, which is quite clearly insufficient. But then holidays in the US are generally ridiculously inadequate as far as I can tell. The presumption appears to be that people can rest when they’re dead.

Anyhow, so it’s holiday time for me, although I’m actually going to end up working through most of it (perhaps this working thing is infectious?) because otherwise there’s no way in hell I’ll be ready for next quarter. That said I decided to take this weekend to do some of the long delayed jobs on the cars. Kathryn’s mother and her wife kindly let us use their garage, because… it being Washington, it’s raining and the main job needed the car to be dry. First up was the swamp-mobile insight, which has been leaking since we got it, had sprung a new leak early in winter, and had continued to leak in a most distressing way.

Indeed, frequently getting in to the car was unpleasant in the extreme, with it smelling like you were hopping into a cozy swamp, the carpet on the driver’s side smelling distinctly less than fresh. It turns out that first generation insights are notoriously leaky beasts, with Honda essentially building a car with many large holes which they filled with caulk and then painted over.

So I ordered a billion small plastic clips, some fresh silicone sealant, and this weekend (having had the clips for nearly a year) set to. It turned out that the person who rebuilt the car after its accident had decided to just slather glue on to hold the trim in place…

IMG_20170325_122547

There were literally no intact clips except for the ‘special’ ones at each end. So, I pulled the broken clips out* with my newly purchased ‘trim remover’ tools, dug out the cracked caulk from the passenger side, and tried to clean up that and the driver’s side as much as possible. That done I laid down a bead of silicone that I then realised I had no means of making as smooth as I’d like, because it’s fairly thoroughly recessed.

Still, it’s normally hidden under trim, so I wasn’t too worried. While I was doing this, Kathryn set to on the seat with the hot/wet/but not steam cleaner**. She pulled out a fearsome amount of filth, and it actually doesn’t look quite as horrendous as it did before, but it still looks pretty shitty. She also had a good go at the carpet which now smells much less bad than it did.

That done we went out for a nice curry and then headed home. Today I headed back over and started reassembly, which went okay although the driver’s side trim still doesn’t sit quite the way I’d like it to, which I suspect is that I didn’t bend the metal clips to quite the right place before reattaching it***. Well, I say it went okay. That’s a bit of a lie. There are two small pieces of trim that go at the back, and the sticky pad that attaches the (brand new) metal clip that holds on the small piece of trim is not sticky. It’s slightly tacky if you push really hard on it, but it’s not sticky. I’m assuming this is because it was probably made around 2006, when the car was last being built new.

Obviously, because it comes with a sticky pad I’d not bought any of the ‘trim attaching sticky shite’, so I had to abandon sticking it on, and it’s now sat lacking that part. When we get a dry day I’ll clean it and stick it on, but I’m rather peeved by its absence. Although I suppose it means that if it proves to still be leaking I can do a more vigorous removal of caulk and try again.

So anyhow I then traded the insight for the Rav, for which I had purchased a shiny new radio. It claimed to have bluetooth audio, bluetooth hands free, CD, and MP3 playback. It lacks AM, which the old radio did have, but frankly I don’t think we’ve used the AM feature on ours.

This installation did not entirely go smoothly, however.

First up, it turned out that I’d ordered the wrong gender of adaptor. I had bought female Toyota adaptors, and (if I think about it, it’s obvious) I needed male. Of course I realised that after I’d crimped all the sodding joints together with my crappy cheap crimping tool, and also after I’d pulled the old radio out of the Rav. So then I had to throw the radio back in, go and buy a 4x as expensive adaptor (which is just the same as the cheap adaptor I got from china for $2, but $16 and in a box), more crimping doohickies, and I also opted to fork out for a better quality ratcheting crimping tool (because the cheap one I was using kills my hands and produces crappy crimps).

Then I got back home and set to a second time. Then I found that the new radio required different mounting screws for its ISO mount than the original Toyota one, and that they weren’t included, I then ransacked one of my boxes of stuff and (thankfully) found some that fit.

Then I finally installed the benighted object only to find when I powered it on that it seems to be suspiciously lacking in actual bluetooth functionality which was the entire damn point of installing it. Looking through the manual bluetooth is not mentioned…and checking the box it doesn’t have the bluetooth logo anywhere on it. I’ve lodged a complaint with the supplier**** on Aliexpress although I’ve allowed for them to just tell me how to turn it on. I’ve also screencap’d the current listing which still states that it has bluetooth.

All of this has left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied with my progress. Especially as I had plans to also fix the broken heated rear window in the Rav as well, and that’s not happened either.

All in all, feh.

* Working on modern cars really is a world of hideousness, isn’t it. I’m really not used to ‘removal’ meaning ‘snap it in half and replace it’, leaving the broken bit rattling around inside the car somewhere. Ugh.
** I thought it was a steam cleaner when I bought it, but it turns out it’s not. Damnit.
*** Did I mention that I really am not fond of working on modern cars?
**** This is the first time I’ve got something from Aliexpress which wasn’t as described. I’ve bought things that didn’t work well, or were shonky ass crap, but it’s the first time I’ve received something which outright is not what was advertised.

If we don’t…

…get some kind of answer from the county saying that our permit is approved in approximately the next 3 weeks, it is highly likely we’ll have to delay our house build for an entire year.

This is extremely distressing and frustrating and expensive. It will probably cost us in the region of $6000 dollars to do that, assuming our rent doesn’t change, and also ignoring the fact we’re hoping that our house will be cheaper to heat.

Also, instead of the rent going on repaying a mortgage, it’s going on paying someone else. I like I landlord, and the place we live is nice, but I’d rather have the money be paying for the wood that builds our house than paying someone else for stuff.

So that’s not….fun.

Still, I suppose it would take the stress off in some way. Feh.

If you’re wondering about how the house is going…

This might give you a clue:
Central Services Logo

…they’ve requested what appears to be a logging related form (which we have said we don’t think we need to do), and a form that appears to be related to the construction of a subdivision, rezoning a site, or constructing a large retail development…which we’ve also said we don’t think we need to do.