Dec 11 2008

Dividing the promised land part 2

Category: economy,environment,government,humorharmonicminer @ 1:10 pm

This is about our adventures in dividing a 5 acre lot into two 2.5 acre lots, in San Bernardino County in southern California. It will include human folly, financial folly, governmental folly, economic folly, and environmental folly. Plenty of folly to go around. If you missed it, this post will make a lot more sense if you read Part 1 first.

So, we hired a real estate agent to help us through the land subdivision process. We were starting this about 2 years ago, when the real estate boom was in full flower, and everybody was very busy, including our agent, all the county offices and employees involved, and all the private companies the county engages to perform certain services for it. So, initially, we waited.

Then we waited some more.

What we didn’t know is that while we were waiting, the prices for every aspect of the process were going up, eventually reaching about $20,000, instead of the $14,000-$15,000 we were told initially.

Here’s a short list of some of the costs (a few more remain):

County Surveyor Plan Check $3,000

I asked what this was, and why it cost so much.  I was told that the “county surveyor” (not the same one in the NEXT line item) calls the report up on his computer, and looks at it, for maybe 30 minutes or so.  I asked why it cost so much.  They said it takes very special training, and some of the money goes to support personnel.  I’m thinking I don’t want my kids to become medical doctors; they should become surveyors instead.

Later, I figure out what this line item really meant:  The County Surveyor looked at the Plan, and I wrote a Check.

Survey and Drainage by Engineer $3,250

This is where they look at the original maps to check for drainage issues.  I live in the foothills, on the side of a very mild slope.  There ARE no drainage issues.  I live in one of the driest areas of California.  In the very heaviest rains in human memory, we just see a little mud.  In any case, no acts of Divine Frustration of which I’m aware have caused any of this to change in the last 50 years.  So we paid some guy 3 grand to look at a map for a few minutes.  Really.  I asked.

I think one day a guy came out and poured half a diet coke on the top of my lot to see what happened to it.  It sank straight into ground, of course.

I think George Washington surveyed half of Ohio or something, for less money I’m sure, and he was, in fact, a “county surveyor”, too.  Of course, at the time there was no public employees union.  And all the citizens who were served by the government owned guns, and carried them all the time, and everybody knew it.  Kinda makes your average public servant a little more polite and reasonable, maybe.

Title Insurance and Report $ 950

This is typical of any real estate transaction.  But since nothing is being sold (we’re just subdividing) it’s an exact duplication of the title search and title insurance we already paid for when we bought the land in the first place.  But the county requires it, again.  I’m guessing some campaign contributions are involved here.

Planning Application $1,000

This was actually the first fee they collected.   It doesn’t cost this much to apply to the most prestigious university in the world, or to apply for a loan to buy the Golden Gate Bridge, or to apply for a ride on the Space Shuttle.  I guess the cost of paper is rising.

Environmental Health Review $ 207

No one took my temperature.  I’m guessing the “review” consisted of some clown watching porn for 20 minutes on a county computer and signing off on it.  The Environmental Health Review, that is.

Fire Department Review $ 295

They did this already, 4 years ago….  sigh.

California Fish & Game $1,925

This one just loses me.  FISH and GAME?  The only fish around here are in aquariums.  The only game is monopoly, unless you want to go rabbit hunting (which isn’t really hunting…  there are so many of them that you can just fire blind and hit one).  What do they DO that gets them almost two grand of my money?  It’s enough to make me want to stage a little re-enactment of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Game“, on my property.  At least that way they’d earn their money, befitting their star billing.  We’ll find out who’s got game, won’t we?

Percolation Report for Septic $1,700

Is somebody going to make coffee in my septic tank?  OK, I guess…  but better boil it a LONG time.  Another test done 4 years ago, before my house was built.

Septic Certification price not set yet

I just can’t wait.  They’re going to certify that I’m septic?  How do they know?  Why do they care?  Can’t I just take an antibiotic?

Water Letter $ 15

Now this is more like it.  This is about what the application fee should have been, or the people who spend a few minutes looking things up in computers and get $3000 for it.

County Compliance $ 550

Is this an S&M club or something?  Some kind of martial arts training?  How to use a nightstick?

Tortoise/Ground Squirrel Study $1,100

I talked to the guy who did this.  He came to our property for about 30 minutes one day and looked around.  Then he said he spent “several hours” writing a report.  Pure, unadulterated bovine droppings, of course.  The report was a cut and paste job from scratch.  How many ways can you say, “There ain’t no critters there”?  He admitted that he had a better chance of winning the grand prize in the California Lottery than of finding a tortoise or Mojave ground squirrel on our property, neither of which has been seen within ten miles of us in living human memory…  we’re just too high in elevation.  Come to think of it, when this clown got his job, he DID win the lottery…  but I bought the ticket.

I just LOVE the environmental freaks who won’t drill for oil, but who
make us all pay and pay and pay for stupid things, and raise the price
of everything for trivial or no gain.

And now they’re about to do it again for cars.

Paleontology Report price not set yet

You just never know when a fossil might turn up.  Just last week they dug up a partial skeleton of the pre-human species Australo-Socialisticus Democratus in our neighbor’s yard (thus disproving the “out of Africa” theory).  Oh, wait, I forgot… that turned out to be the county code inspector from when my neighbor divided HIS lot.  You can tell by the sloping brow, and the fact that the little finger of the left hand is permanently fused with the nasal bone.  It would be the left hand.

Drainage Study $1,000

What do they care about my sinuses?  Nosy parkers.  Anyway, how is this different from “Survey and Drainage by Engineer $3,250” listed earlier?  Maybe he just came on my lot and blew his nose.

CDP Plan $3,250

No one, absolutely no one, knows what this is.  California Defense Posture?  Combined Development Plan?  (but that would make it mean Combined Development Plan Plan…)  (Of course, this whole thing is about redundancy, so who knows?)  Cleverly Duping Phil?  Creeping Dung Pile?  (composting is getting popular…)  Seriously, I’ve gotten five different answers on this, and it makes no sense why this is different from the “County Surveyor Plan Check”, but costs about as much.

S.B. County Auditor $ 55

Vector Control Report price not set yet

Water Feasability Study price not set yet

Remember, this had all been done when our lot was initially plotted out by the county, relatively recently, and we had just had all the environmental, septic, drainage, blah blah blah reports done and approved in order to get our house built.

This whole thing has dragged on and on.  First, we were told the county was overwhelmed with requests for services by the real estate boom, and we’d just have to wait for our turn.  Then we were told that someone in the “land use” office had been caught embezzling (imagine that!) and they had to replace her, so they were now behind even though the real estate boom was history.  What seems to be happening now is that they have so many people with nothing to do that they write letters contradicting each other, and challenging each other’s approvals of this decision or that.   In other words, when they’re swamped with work, there are going to be delays.  And when they aren’t swamped with work, there are going to be delays.

I thought monopolies were illegal in the USA.

In the meantime, the county code enforcement people have nothing to do but to drive around looking for minor infractions they can write up.

Just yesterday, talking directly to someone in the county land use department, I found out we have to move one of our fences back TWO FEET to clear the “road easement”.    Just to be clear, we had the fence put in by a licensed contractor who said he’d put in enough setback from the road that we’d have no problem if the county eventually paved it (in my dreams…). But apparently the county disagrees, so we have to move about 100 feet of fence the grand distance of TWO FEET, which may as well be FIFTY FEET, it will be as expensive either way. The maddening part is that there is no chance whatsoever that the county or state will be paving that road anytime in the next 50 years, if ever, and the fence is already WAY back from the dirt road, with an entire row of junipers and shrubs between the fence and the current dirt road.

So they’re just punishing us because our fencing contractor made an error (if he did), not because there is any practical effect of our fence being where it is.  That’s assuming they’re competent enough to have measured correctly, an open question.

Nevertheless, our agent never told us about this, though apparently she was notified on Sept 23 about it, according to county records. So there is now no chance we can finish this before the New Year. But if we DON’T finish by Jan 1, then when the subdivision is finally approved, we have to pay the whole next year’s taxes in advance. However, since our taxes are also taken in escrow with our mortgage payment, we will end up paying double for the next year, about $4500 in property taxes per year, but multiplied by TWO. We’ll eventually get it back, of course, in a couple of years when the escrow evens out, but essentially we have to make an interest free loan to the county of $4500 for at least a year.

In the meantime, our agent is busy going out of business and is paying less and less attention to any of this, but the county doesn’t take kindly to civilians talking to them directly when the process was begun with an agent, even if the agent is flaking out.

What fun.

California counties and the state have been run by Democrats for a very long time. You know what you see on the news about Illinois politics, also a long time Democrat stronghold.

Yes, our current former actor governor is a “Republican”, but he is a RINO (Republican in name only), who governs very much like a Democrat would in any other state.

It is Democrats, not Republicans, who have pushed and continue to push the extreme environmental agenda where the presence of a RAT ten miles from your property can result in a law requiring you to pay $1000 to be sure there isn’t one of those RATS on your property. I think I know who the rats are.

More broadly, it is clear that the state and county see this as a way to generate income. And in so doing, they strangle the actual movement of capital and property, and the development of property, which generates actual economic activity, as opposed to strangling it with high taxes and fees, the usual Democrat approach.

I wish I had been in possession of a crystal ball. But my old one broke last year, and I haven’t been able to replace it…. The factory service center closed down due to the recession and fired all the crystal ball repair technicians.  Now they can’t re-open without paying $25,000 for a Future Impact Prognostication Study.

My last comment:  when you hear on the news that California is going out of business, and can’t fund its commitments, don’t worry.    People like me are paying so much that they’re rolling in money.  They just want to make you nervous.

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One Response to “Dividing the promised land part 2”

  1. harmonicminer » Dividing the promised land part 1 says:

    […] Part 2 of this adventure is described here. […]

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