Wednesday, February 18, 2009

homeacres farm is now killer whale habitat

The county wanted me to apply for a permit for my little barn, a 19'6" x 20' structure I started building a couple of years ago. It's the size it is because buildings under 400 square feet do not require a building permit and that's all I needed for my operation. Someplace with a roof I can store feed and tools in.

The zoning on my land allows barns, so I thought I was cool. Well, it turns out that because it's on the flood plain, I have to get a flood hazard permit, which I thought I was exempt from because of the buildings size. Turns out that there is no minimum size, and that a flood hazard permit is required for any structure -- loafing shed, chicken coop, barn, whatever.

In order to approve the permit so far they've had me:

1) survey my property to note the elevation of the four corners of the building

2) draw a scale map of my property, showing the buildings distance from the property lines (more than 200' in all directions, btw)

3) Draw a map showing the direction of any flood that might happen, and the orientation of the building with respect to flood water flow direction.

4) provide documents showing that the cost of the materials and labor were under $65,000. It's a barn. I spent $1800 on materials and $400 on labor.

5) Required structural drawings showing that it will resist lateral loads that might be inflicted by a flood, and contains hydrostatic openings to allow the entry and exit of flood waters

6) an updated lot coverage map that includes all fencing as "impervious surface" -- that is, 1 linear foot of fence is now the same as 1 square foot of concrete and counts as "lot coverage"

7) that I sign a notice of prohibition of human habitation with includes huge fines if I ever do choose to live in my barn.

I saved the best for last

8) develop a habitat management plan for salmonid species and resident killer whales, which seem to include requirements that I set aside further acreage for "natural growth protection areas" for the damage that my 20' square barn does to salmon and killer whales. I am more than half a mile from any habitat that might contain any salmonid species or killer whales. The island is surrounded by a 14' tall dike that was constructed in 1905.

I've spent $2200 on material and labor on the barn, and I have spent close to $7,000 attempting to comply with these regulations. The regulations are designed to make sure that housing built in the flood plain is safe and will resist flood damage, with the aim of making it possible to get flood insurance. But I will NEVER flood insure this barn. If it is damaged in a flood I'll make another one for a couple of thousand dollars. Flood insurance premiums for this building would run $900/year. It only floods every 10 to 15 years.

Best part? only $300 of the money spent so far goes to the county. The rest is to attorneys, surveyors, biologists, draftsmen and lost wages. So this exercise is a dead-loss for the cash-strapped snohomish county.


EJ said...

Must be a lot of $ in farming in your part of the world to be able to spend that much money on permits...

Bruce King said...

I'm putting up with the permit stuff mostly out of stubbornnes. It would have been cheaper to tear the building down and replace it with a bunch of trailers.

The location I've got is pretty good; I'm next to a highway that has 55,000 cars a day pass by, and there aren't very many farms nearby, both of which mean that I'm pretty much the only game in town. But in return for that exposure, I get a lot of government attention. Today I got a call from the snohomish county animal control, who said that they'd recieved a welfare call about my animals. Someone from the road had looked at my water trough and was worried that my trough was too tall for the sheep and pigs to drink out of. I called Bill back and said "the sheep can drink out of the trough; it's got an automatic valve on it that keeps it full to the brim, and he said "thanks; I looked at your animals while i was there and I've been around farm animals all my life, and your hogs looked great. "

Yea. I know most of my local government by first name.