I Got 5000 Problems And You’re All Of Them

, , , , , | Working | September 11, 2019

(Our company does plans to show where a house will be built on the property. Naturally, these plans are given to the county for review and approval to help get a building permit. If a house is over 5,000 square feet of disturbance, then the county will treat it as major construction work and cause a host of other plans to be done. If the house is under 5,000 square feet, then the project is exempt from the other plans. Doing a house under 5,000 square feet is easier to get a permit for in both time and cost. A client is trying to build a house under the 5,000 square feet so he can sell it later on. We have worked with him and he hates the ones over 5,000 square feet. We do the plan and have come up with around 4,900 square feet of disturbance. He is happy and we have it submitted to the permit office. About two weeks later, we get an email from a county reviewer about the project. Comments happen all the time so this is not unexpected. A few are minor, but two catch our eye.)

Reviewer: “1. Make the driveway pad at the front into a square and revise the plan. 2. Submit a [document saying the house is a major plan for projects over 5,000 square feet].”

(I print the email off and deliver it to my boss, who worked on the plan.)

Boss: “This doesn’t seem right. Why does she want to make the driveway pad like that? There is no rule I can find saying she can do that. If we do what she wants, we will be over 5,000. You know [Client] is not going to like that.”

(My boss and I go through all the requirements for driveways and can’t find anything saying that we have to do that. My boss writes back a detailed message about why we won’t do that and asking what the requirement is that says we have to do that. A few days later, we get this message.)

Reviewer: “[Department Head] is requiring it. Please update the plans.”

(We have worked with [Department Head] before in the past and know him to be a reasonable person. We try to call the reviewer and all but one time we get an answering machine. The one time we get through, she says:)

Reviewer: “The message I sent you is enough.”

(We try to talk with [Department Head] directly, but he is extremely busy and typically out of the office. After sending messages and phone calls, we call his office to set up a meeting with him in person. Two weeks later, [Department Head], [Reviewer], my boss, and I meet at the department head’s office.)

Boss: “So, this is about [Project] that you reviewed.”

Department Head: “What project? I don’t recall any project like this.”

(This isn’t unusual; he is only second to the head of the whole agency, who is appointed by the county counsel, and has hundreds of jobs. My boss gives him the email with the original comments from the reviewer and shows him the plan.)

Department Head: “I don’t understand. This doesn’t appear to be any comment I made. These comments make no sense to me.”

(This is the first time my boss or I have heard of this.)

Me: *turning to reviewer* “So whose comments are these?”

Reviewer: “[Supervisor]. She is the one who requested it. I don’t know why we are in this meeting with [Department Head].”

(The supervisor and the department head are not even close to being mixed up. The supervisor is a blonde, 30-year-old woman who has a common name, while the department head is a black, 60-year-old man with a very uncommon name that is hard to pronounce.)

Me: “You said yourself for weeks that [Department Head] was the one asking for these comments.”

Reviewer: “I never said that.”

Me: “I have your email right here.” *passes it over to [Department Head]*

Reviewer: “That isn’t my email. You must have changed it.”

(The department head facepalms.)

Department Head: “Let me look at the comments.”

(He took a quick look at the comments and removed the comments about the driveway and forcing us to go over 5,000 square feet. The reviewer is still there, but every time we get her, she delays our jobs almost as a revenge for catching her in a lie.)

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