I want my spoons back.

2011-11-22 15:07

(Spoons, you ask? Yes, spoons.)

Here’s one of the things that sucks about being autistic. Spoons aren’t just used or recovered. They are reserved. If I begin a task that requires spoons, the spoons get reserved. They are then the spoons for that task. PERIOD. They cannot be reclaimed, or used for any other purpose, until the task is complete or absolutely, provably, gone from this world.

In August, I called the city planning people to discuss a proposed scheme. It looks like I called them at 1:21 PM on Tuesday, August 16th. I called again on the 29th, at 12:20 and 1:06 PM. The person I originally spoke to was Corey Murphy, who transferred me to someone named Cynthia, whose last name I didn’t catch at the time.

The topic of my calls was the proposed construction of a greenhouse. I had looked up the greenhouse’s rough size, and wanted to know whether this was permitted.

Cynthia informed me that the allowable area for an accessory building was at most 25% of the area of the back yard, and looked up the site to determine that our back yard was roughly 6300 square feet; I quipped that since the structure was only 550 square feet, that means we could have three of them; she informed me that it does not work quite that way.

She informed me that the structure needed to be at least five feet from the property line, but that unless I had a survey done, it would need to be at least ten feet.

I said the building was about 12 feet tall, and asked whether this was a problem. She said that as long as the accessory structure was not higher than the main building, it was fine. I believe I observed that presumably that rule is so that accessory structures aren’t visible from the street. We talked a bit about other requirements, etcetera, but everything appeared fine.

So we ordered the greenhouse kit. On the 29th, I spoke to Corey again, and determined that the permit process was too complicated for me to handle reliably, and that in any event I would need a contractor for the gas lines (the greenhouse needs heating). I hired a contractor.

The contractor went to get a permit, and was told that we couldn’t apply for a permit without a set of plans for the building, signed-off by an engineer licensed to practice in Minnesota. Such plans were obtained, and presented. The greenhouse parts arrived, in late September.

And now — early October — it is revealed that the planners cannot approve the project because the actual height limit is ten feet. Whoops. Well, this goes back and forth, and there is discussion about partially burying the greenhouse, or about other things. And this continues, and continues.

(EDIT: I need to correct this. The first application for permit was October 3rd, where we were told we needed plans. The height issue was not brought up until the 17th.)

I have since found out that the land development code is new as of August 2nd. Also, the land development code has very interesting rules for determining the “height” of a building, and these rules are such that it is not at all obvious how to correctly calculate the height of a dome.

So here we are at the end of November, and we still have one and a half tons of greenhouse parts waiting in my driveway, because we can’t get anyone to agree on which of three definitions of height apply, and in the case they’ve settled on (a “mansard roof” determination), it’s not at all obvious how to calculate the height; the code refers to the “deck line”, and the greenhouse doesn’t have one.

And because of this, I haven’t been able to do a thing since late August. I can’t focus on anything, because all my spoons are in big crates in the driveway.

I don’t know why I got that utterly useless wrong answer (I’d point out that the other answers are largely correct, although there’s also an 864 square foot limit on accessory buildings). I don’t know whether it was a misremembered rule, or a reference to the rules before the update, or an answer to a different question, or what. We have been told at least one that we are prohibited from appealing this to the zoning board of appeals, because it is a zoning issue rather than a code issue. (This makes no sense.)

I am really, really, sick of this. I just want my spoons back. I want to put up the greenhouse, so my neighbors (who are all big supporters of the plan) can start their spring veggies. And I would like to get this resolved BEFORE the ground completely freezes.

Learn from my mistakes: Never trust anything you are told by the planning office unless it is on a signed permit.

(Edit: Not Christine, Cynthia. I love the way my brain mangles names.)

Peter Seebach

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