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Archive for the ‘Wetlands’ Category

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This afternoon after work, Andy and I went to meet our builder out at the property to check out the progress of the clearing. There is quite a lot to clear, so it takes some time to do things right. With all of the environmental issues, they have to work very carefully to avoid damaging areas outside of the approved site.

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We heard that the backhoe operator stopped at least four times to get down and relocate box turtles that he happened upon during clearing, and that is way cool with us. Turtles, we are sorry for disturbing your homes and will make it up to you when we are able. Seriously.

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We were very happy to find that a lovely cypress tree that we had really wanted to save will not have to be removed. The site superintendent said that one of the surveyors who is an expert on trees had estimated that it is approximately 70 years old. We really wanted to keep that tree, so it was great news to find that it will not have to be removed. We are doing our best to preserve as many trees as possible. There are quite a few cabbage palms that have had to be removed, but we will be able to relocate them to another part of the property, so they will not go to waste.

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Unbelievable

The whole field review of our appraisal is not going well. Think about it, what appraiser is going to say that they disagree with another? They wouldn’t want the same thing done to them, so I am sure they vouch for each other. The original appraiser provided us this line of BS: 

“Although it may appear that we are comparing a slightly larger or smaller property to the subject, each adjustment is appropriate in terms of contributory site value.”

What a load! They are considering our 7.59 acres of land as equivalent to a parcel of only .38 acres. Both sites are in roughly the same area and the smaller one has no advantages such as being on the water or being in a nicer neighborhood.

The other appraisers refuse to consider the additional half acre of buildable area authorized by our wetland permits from both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and recorded OFFICIALLY and legally in the county section maps. They say that they need an official survey in order to do so, and all that we have is a survey that is not a survey.  It is a professional sketch to accompany a legal description, that was done by our surveyor. So, the sketch was good enough for the DEP and the Army Corps and the county, but these nit-picky appraisers need an official survey? My ass! It is complete crap.

And I’ll say it once more; who really cares how much of it is buildable? It is zoned for one single family house, same as all of the comparables. It is already permitted to build that house. So, once the house is completed, the only difference between our property and the comps will be that ours has far more land.  It is completely immaterial that most of it is not buildable as we are only authorized to build one single family house anyway, same as the comparables. Damn appraisers. They are scared of their own shadows.

I finally sent an email to our builder this morning, just to let him know what was transpiring. His response was:

“That just reassures my opinion of appraisers and their entire BS process. You should get a refund on that appraisal.”

We tend to agree.  The latest set of objections I sent to our mortgage person just this afternoon went like this:

“We are not sure why the appraiser needs an official survey, when all that was needed through the entire permitting process was the professional sketch that says “this is not a survey.” The whole conservation easement was recorded with only that sketch, in fact the DEP did not want a survey.  The official county section map reflects the conservation easement as being 6.36 acres, and it readily available on the property appraisers site.  I don’t know how much more official we can get than that.  I have attached a close up of the section map showing the conservation easement, and also the entire section map, which is very current, having been updated this month.  The section maps are way more official than some crummy survey.

We are interested to know about what kind of comps are being used to value the vacant land. If any of them are under five acres and would require wetland impacts in order to build, they are most likely completely unbuildable. The Army Corps of Engineers requires ‘like kind’ mitigation, so the mitigated land must also be on Merritt Island.  There are no mitigation banks on Merritt Island and parcels under five acres do not possess enough land to allow for on-site wetland mitigation such as ours did. That is why the properties under five acres with wetland issues are worth far less.  In addition, some of the vacant properties in the area have even more issues, such as those on the East side of Judson Road that would require a bridge to get across the wide canal in order to build on them.  I am not sure what it would take to get approval from the Army Corps, the FDEP, the St. Johns River Water Management District, and possibly the Marine Fisheries division of the Fish and Wildlife Commission to fill in surface waters to make a bridge, but I am sure it would not be easy.  When we dealt with all of these groups for our road issue, surface water impacts were a big deal.”

So, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.  All I know is that it will be something fucked up that we won’t be able to do anything about until the weekend is over.  I am willing to bet that before this is all over we will require the services of our environmental permitting expert to get this all sorted out. He has saved our asses (for a healthy fee) on many occasions already.

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F%@&ing Fridays

Throughout this whole ordeal, there has been one constant.  We get some kind of messed up news on Friday afternoons, and then can’t do anything about it because every place is already closed.  Then we sit around and worry for the whole time and it ruins the entire weekend.  The county was notorious for doing that to us- we’d get some bad news at like 4:30 in the afternoon, and then we would try to call to straighten things out, but everyone would already be gone, even though they are supposed to be there until 5:00.

Well, nothing has changed.  We got the word this afternoon that our underwriter questioned the appraiser about whether he had taken our conservation easement on our land into account when he did the appraisal. He hadn’t, and he re-did the whole thing. In the blink of an eye, our appraised value went down by $150,000! We were floored- the new value he had assigned to the land was $25,000 less than we paid for it!  And when we bought it it was not even buildable. Getting it to be buildable cost another $55,000 and two years of work. Compared to the last appraisal from a few months back, the new appraiser had listed the land value as being half of what it was then. There’s no way that the value could have decreased by fifty percent in a few months. We sent the old appraisal to the mortgage consultant, and also pointed out to her that we had nearly twice the amount of buildable land than the appraiser had given us credit for.

Of course, nothing can be done about it until next week, and even then we are probably screwed.  Just beautiful. I’m really going to enjoy the weekend now.

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Idiots

I am ready to strangle someone at the environmental health department. There is no reason for anyone to have to endure a fraction of the shit that we have had thrown at us from various agencies in the attempt to build one stinking house. It has now been just a couple of weeks short of two years and not a stick has been moved and many tens of thousands of dollars have been pissed away.

The latest is that the state environmental health department won’t give us a septic permit due to “surface waters” that are too close by. The surface waters in question consist of a puddle that was dug illegally before we owned the property and is due to be filled in as part of our wetland mitigation. But we can’t get the septic permit until it is filled in, and we are not allowed to do any work/clearing of the site until we get the building permit, and the building permit is held up until we get the septic permit. It is a ridiculous thing, and I just can’t deal with these idiots anymore. I think it is almost time to throw in the towel. Just default on the loan and walk away. What has this country come to? Do we really want to regulate ourselves to this point? To the point that we will spend tens of thousands and end up ruining our credit forever by walking away after two years of frustration? It just isn’t right.

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Overgrowth

This morning we went out to the hollow to clear the paths and re-stake the points that had been marked to delineate the wetland boundaries. It has been nearly two years since the wetland edges had been determined and marked and the markers are very faded. We wanted to replace the markers to make sure they can be read.Just to get through to the areas where the markers are required a lot of chopping. There was two years of growth where the paths had tried to disappear from us into the thickness of woods. Andy went ahead of me with a machete and chopped the vegetation back to make it passable.

I picked up the cuttings and cleared sticks and vines and such from the pathway and pulled out some small plants growing in the path of travel. We finally got to the upland area where the house will be built and started placing new stakes with neon orange flagging tape at each point on the edge of the wetland line. I also flagged the entire path all the way we went to make it easier for anyone that has to go back there to find their way. I found a new area of the property that we had never seen before. It was a neat wide clearing with only low vegetation and it was beautiful. Of course I forgot to take pictures of that, but I have this picture here of Andy the jungle man chopping his way through the woods.

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Buggy solutions

This weekend Andy and I went to a home show that featured vendors from the area showcasing the building products, supplies, and services they have to offer. There were a lot of people there offering hurricane shutters of every variety, lots of “lifetime” house paint, and then there were some very interesting products that we had never seen before. Probably the best thing we got out of the experience was a mosquito control system that we learned about.

Tortoise Hollow is mostly wetlands, and is bounded on three sides by water-filled ditches. It features a pond of its own, and the area is full of small freshwater canals. It is like paradise for mosquitoes. Living where we are now we have virtually no mosquitoes, so we knew we would have to figure something out once we got out there. I am not a fan of screen enclosures. Screen is okay for porches (though I far prefer these), but those gargantuan aluminum cages that they put over pools here are not exactly aesthetically pleasing to me. Not to mention, ever since the rash of hurricanes we have had here in the last few years, a screen enclosure costs in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $30,000 or more. Yes, you read that right. For screen on aluminum tubes. I’ll be damned if I’d pay that for some crummy screen.

Anyway, back to the mosquitoes. At the home show we found this great new system that uses natural oils to repel or kill mosquitoes (you can choose straight cedar oil to repel them or use a blend of several other oils that will kill them instead). The system consists of a large drum, tubing, and little teeny nozzles that are connected to it and they can build the little nozzles right into the soffit area of our house so you can’t even see them. It is on a timer and sprays the atomized solution out every so often depending on need. Instead of drawing every mosquito for miles like the propane type “mosquito magnet” things do, this serves to kill just the ones in our area and/or repel them.

The best part as far as I am concerned is that you don’t have to fuss with it much as the drum will last at least three months, possibly longer depending on how many nozzles are installed. So there is no lugging propane tanks around to get them filled. And the stuff is environmentally safe. It supposedly will not harm beneficial insects and has even been proven safe to frogs and toads. I wouldn’t want to hurt the poor toads!

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Milestone

Holy freaking crap, I can’t believe it but we were finally issued a wetland permit after months of aggravation and strife! It is a miracle, and it is a big step toward finally getting to our goal of building our new house. Thank God!

In other news, Andy got a call today from the sister-in-law of the guy we have been dealing with that is associated with the property across from us, the one we have to work with to get the county to vacate the road so that we can build our house. The property is actually owned by an elderly Japanese woman, but these are her children and they are handling all of her affairs for her. The guy we first talked to (one of the Japanese owner’s sons) is now going through a divorce and became sort of “unavailable”- but it is to be understood because he has a lot to deal with. But finally we got a call from his sister-in-law who has been dealing with the road issues for years and she is going to work with us now. And her husband (another one of the Japanese woman’s sons) has power of attorney for their mother, so we may actually get somewhere now. We are meeting with them sometime next week.

And as for the past issues they have had with trying to vacate the road, there is an incredible backstory there that I will elaborate on someday. Basically it boils down to poor communication with the neighbors before they proceeded. And that won’t be an issue this time as we are in contact with all of them. So finally, a little ray of sunshine comes our way!

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