Land Use Lawyer submitted our letter to the County over a week ago and we’re all waiting for what they’ll say. We’ve decided to scrap the deal if we can’t do it through the lawyer. Based on recent meetings with the County, we don’t think they’ll approve the SE. It’s either lawyer or bust now. Wish us luck…
Land Use Lawyer spoke with us and met with me at Hearthwood yesterday to get a better bearing on her argument. She has found that the County’s flood plain ordinance is illegal in that if they tried to enforce it, they would be changing zones or boundries that only the National Flood Insurance Agency can change by a vote.
It would basically be like a company being started and writing by-laws that dictated only people of one race could be hired in the future. They haven’t hired anyone new yet, but if they do, it will be illegal.
She wanted to make sure the drive was still in use for motor vehicles. She says we can safely count the times we’ve driven on it for whatever reason-trash pickup, kayak retrieval, surveying, etc. “Our Nextdoor Neighbor” also uses it to drive his Jeep back to hunt occasionally during the season.
Our meeting today with County Official 4 was not as “slam dunk” as “Our Nextdoor Neighbor” put it, as our meeting last week. Today County Official 4 explained that even though the County tries to be logical in their approximation of the law, perhaps their definition of logic is not the same as ours. This defines our relationship with the County.
Take a situation as thus: A teacher is attempting to teach physics to Briscoe County Junior, a promising young highschool student with a stubborn streak and complete lack of street knowledge (also known as common sense).
Teacher: So you see that since gravity exerts a force of 9.8 meters per second, second (9.8m/s squared), your object, in this case a house, if suspended 100 feet above the ground, will fall and be destroyed. I wouldn’t recommend you attempt this.
County: That’s not really how I see it. See, I only have jurisdiction over how large my house is, where it is, etc. The gravity exerted by the air molecules around my house really has no effect on it-see, I have it alll worked out here in my formula. The earth’s gravity really doesn’t come into play here-that’s Nature. My logic dictates that my house will be fine.
Teacher: But your house doesn’t exist in a vacuum! Of course the earth’s gravity will have an effect on it. Gravity has set precedence over ALL other things on earth. How is this case different? Just because your logic excerpts doesn’t erase the over-all common sense that your logic is moot.
County: The only way it would affect me is if the gravity exerted by the particles directly around my house were to increase exponentially, bringing it into Nature’s domain. Who knows, Nature could lessen the force of Gravity it exerts and then if I hadn’t taken that into account, I might be out of compliance! At least I’m sticking to my logic consistently here.
And so on.
Essentially County Official 4 nailed down all the things we need (and Civil Engineering Firm 3 needs) to submit the SE. “Our Nextdoor Neighbor” has backed out of this, so as to speed the process through and not present “increased use” to the drive in the SE package. We are still pursuing the route with Land Use Lawyer as well.
We are (again) asking ourselves, “Is Fairfax County a place we really want to live? Want our children to live? Don’t first impressions count for something here?” Would you eat at a restaurant who charged you to get in on the promise that the food was great and then took two years to send out the appetizer? We’re not quitters by far, but it may be time to call it a life.
So we have a meeting with one of the women with whom we spoke on the 1st for Monday the 8th. Our Civil Engineer, Civil Engineering Firm 3, is coming and hopefully we’ll get all the details laid out as to what we need to submit with our SE. The packet we got lays it out pretty well, but we want to make sure we do this right the first time, so we get the earliest hearing date possible.
One plus from this-no more dealings with County Official 5 (“bless his heart”) or County Hydrologist Guy.
Two things of major import yesterday:
1. We had our meeting with County Supervisor. And County Official 3. And another guy. And a woman. And another woman. From the start they began talking “special exception.” You remember, right? No? I’ll refresh your memory: basically a sheet of paper saying we can do something contrary to their regulations and they are ok with it. We’ve been quoted anywhere from 3 months to a year and $3k-$30k for the ordeal.
While effusing warm and fuzzy goodness, they all but managed to ignore our pleas and logic that it may be the case that a special exception wasn’t needed, and perhaps their underlings were being a bit over-zealous in thier enforcement of the regulations. Norm said that bringing attorneys into it would only slow things down and be more expensive, while an “SE” would be “quick.” How quick? “The sooner you get it in, the faster you will get a public hearing date.” When is the soonest date? “November.” Gee, so quick means five months? And another building season lost.
And the cost? $2900 fee for the county, man-hours to our Civil engineer, probably another $2k. Fortunately we can have the Civil Engineer do the SE, which is less expensive than the attorney. We simply can’t afford the legal fees.
Needless to say, we aren’t thrilled. We’re pursuing the SE anyway, concurrently with Land Use Lawyer’s efforts (as the county advised us to). That leads me to point two:
2. From Land Use Lawyer on her belief that the county is enforcing the regulations a bit over-zealously:
FEMA has officially confirmed my interpretation of the Code of Federal Regulations, i.e. the National Flood Insurance Program has no requirement that access to a structure be out of the floodplain.
So now we pursue this option as well. Hopefully it will be less than five months.
Now let’s all step back a minute and think about this. Distilled, the County wanting us to do the SE it would mean the past two years have gone as such:
* Nov. 2000: Ed & Jean buy land.
* Dec. 2000-July 2002: Ed & Jean attempt to build on land (foolish mortals!! ha ha ha)
* July 2002: County comes around that they are being idiots, but have to save face and suggest an SE
* July 2002-Nov. 2002: SE process
* Nov.2002: SE approved
* Nov.2002-April. 2003: Ed & Jean build
Has anyone questioned why we have to do an SE so we can USE OUR DRIVEWAY? It’s not like we are adding fill, or even adding FREAKING GRAVEL!!! It’s already there!!! I jog that thing EVERY DAY. The County, in its infinite wisdom and grace, is chopping my arm off with a sharp sword instead of using a rusty spoon. Thank you. So now we’ve got a bunch of old County officials saying “they’re young, what’s a few months?” It’s not a few months, it will have been two years of our mid twenties. Two years we should have been hiking, gardening, HAVING KIDS, growing together, becoming local activists, having parties at OUR HOUSE, learning the joys and pitfalls of construction, unpacking our stuff that’s been in storage for TWO YEARS, feeling like real people, not mooching off our parents, enjoying the turning of the seasons AT HEARTHWOOD, and LIVING AT HOME.
Jean and I have reached a new level of Zen consciousness.
So our meeting is today. Land Use Lawyer has been decent about giving us an idea of what we’ll be dealing with, but it wasn’t exactly a week:
Well right now I am still in the research/review mode. I am looking at the National flood Insurance requirements to see if they also make access a condition of the flood boundary. Once I answer my own questions, I will craft a response. By the way, I had a general flood boundary conversation with John Friedman — essentially about how the Nat. Flood Insurance program fits into Fairfax County. I told him I would be having a case come up in Fairfax, but did not tell him anything about it. Got some insight into his thought process.
The county has flood regulations because the national flood insurance act requires it. therefore, the county should use the grounds of the the NFIA (I think this is what it is called. at any rate, it’s close.) in its interpretation of the law. Our attorney has worked on flood issues for many years, and know that it is not the intent of the NFIA to prevent people from building on lots that can be marooned, simply that there is some form of protection. Her stance, then, will be that the county is being overzealous in its enforcement and not abiding by the intent of the law. she also plans on pointing out that the county already determined how strict it would be when it approved stonecrest and the Dyer’s lot. they have already set a precedent and should stick by it.
“Our Nextdoor Neighbor” is coming with us. We’ll let you know how it goes…