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Finally Acquired Land!!!  RSS feed

 
Christopher Colwell
Posts: 16
Location: Seattle Area
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Hey Permies!!!
My wife and I finally found the right piece of land! We got 5 acres at the edge of civilization. Our property is about 20 minutes east of Duvall and a 1 hour drive from Seattle.  We are in the foothills at 900ft elevation southwest facing with potential views to the Olympics. There are about 30 fruit trees on the property, a seasonal creek that gathers runnoff from uphill and feeds it into 2 man made farm irrigation ponds and then carries it off the property to the north We share our eastern boundary with DNR public forest land that goes on and on.  We are super excited to get all of your input and ideas as we build our home and begin to cultivate our own eden.  We are currently taking the preliminary steps necessary to apply for a construction loan. I (purposeful pronoun change) would love to just move out and live in the cabins that are on the property, but King county doesn't allow you to live on your land without a Certificate of Occupancy. We also see this as our first real investment towards retirement, so we want to build a semi-traditional home on the property for the sake of resale value if it ever comes to that.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a small novel worth of pictures. Please let us know what you think.

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Topo Map of area
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Closer Topo of our chunk of dirt
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Entrance
 
Christopher Colwell
Posts: 16
Location: Seattle Area
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Next batch of pics. Hope its acceptable to post so many pics.
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The Driveway (needs to be graded and widened)
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Drive Turning into clearing
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The 5th wheel had to go to get the loan approved. Was severely water damaged anyway.
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3412
Location: Anjou ,France
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No problem with pics here we love them

What sort of house are you planning ?
What sort of fruit trees have you got 😀
David
 
Christopher Colwell
Posts: 16
Location: Seattle Area
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Next batch
There are Grapes on the property, but they are so overgrown with blackberries Im probably gonna have to take the whole hedge to the ground. Any input on this would be welcome.

There are 9 blueberry bushes in a chain link cage that we had to clear significant blackberry vines out of. We were picking on them for a few months, got maybe 2 gallons, hadn't put a dent in them when I accidentally left the gate open one time. No berries when we came back, but there was a pile of bear crap just outside the fence that would not have looked out of place in Jurassic park.

The cabin had a mouse infestation. they are either gone, or have learned to avoid poison. slowly ripping out all the affected insulation and stripping it down to sanitize it, planning a 50/50 bleach and water spray(thoughts?). What do you guys think of KILZ? Was considering priming with that to seal anything nasty into the wood, but I don't like using chemicals if I don't have to.
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My wifes future art studio, trellises for grapes
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The cabin, Giant blackberry infestation, and edge of blueberry cage
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front of the cabin
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3412
Location: Anjou ,France
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Couple of thoughts
Bears .......eeek thee are some threads of that subject have you thought about a LGD?
Grapes you can be pretty brutal with them and they can survive, best if you can find out if they are a type you want 😀 Brambles are hard work but I find cutting  them back a few times can kill them or use a goat

David
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1287
Location: Pacific Northwest
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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Congrats on getting your property! And, welcome to the area! We live not too far north of you .

As for the blackberries taking over the grapes, you might be able to manage it by just continually cutting the blackberry canes at the base. They will keep growing back for a few years (like David said), and so you'll likely have to go and cut the new growth every 2-3 months. But, it doesn't take too long and can be done when you're pruning/maintaining/harvesting the grapes. If you're able to scythe or mow around the grapes, that should also help control the blackberries, too.

I have yet to grow grapes, but I did once ask about growing grapes, kiwis and the native trailing blackberry together (https://permies.com/t/49407/Growing-Kiwis-Grapes-blackberries), and there were a few people sucessfully growing domestic blackberries and grapes together. I'm assuming you've got the nasty Himalayan or Evergreen blackberries volunteering there, though.

We've got bears (and coyote and bobcat) out here. While we've lost some ducks (likely to the bobcat), we haven't had much trouble from the bear (other than it gets into our compost and ripped into the garbage we were storing to take to the dump--we no longer store our garbage in the shed for that reason!). Make sure not to leave meat scraps in the compost (or trash) so as not to lure them. We also found that those little black plastic/rubber compost bins did not work for us, as the bear should just bash them open to get the food out. Either get/make a really secure compost bin, or just resign yourself to feeding the wild life some veggies .
 
David Livingston
steward
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Another thought -Deer any signs ?

David
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
Posts: 938
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Beautiful and the cabin seems to be quite inhabitable!
 
Christopher Colwell
Posts: 16
Location: Seattle Area
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Thanks for the replies Nicole and David!
Sorry for the delay. Here is a link to the plans we are currently interested in altering

http://www.architectsnw.com/plans/detailedPlanInfo.cfm?PlanId=73&nps=1

I was hoping to go with the Glacier Ridge plans which were the same, but with a walk out basement. Unfortunately the lady at the bank told me I'm too Poor.

As for bears, we will be moving in on a 20 year bear smorgasbord. Those trees are 20+ years old and have not ever had regular human occupation. You should have seen the piles under the apple trees once they were ready. Every 5 feet. Think there is a family. We intend to get a pair of LGDs. We have already visited Olympicdogs.net in person and seen his stock. We were impressed.

we have 15 or so apple trees, 3 or so plumb trees (various types), 5 or more cherry trees (in the worst shape... 2 will need to be taken out for sure), 3 asian pear trees, 2 pear trees, 2 peach trees, a tree we haven't identified yet because the bear stripped it before it ripened.  I think that's it. Kinda awesome, but we need to learn to care for an orchard.

There were tons of Deer before hunting season started. I was regularly seeing 5-12 deer each evening that I stayed around in the summer for the sun to set.

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The Orchard
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looking past the rock wall to the cabin with the orchard on the right
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The east side of the orchard is gently sloped, then the back half is steep. The trees on the slope are not as happy.
 
Christopher Colwell
Posts: 16
Location: Seattle Area
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Another Batch
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the north boarder of the property was planted with a nice variety of different evergreens, but they were planted too close and never thined
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Looking at the Boulder Wall, its totally overgrown, but it'll be a nice showpiece eventually. Plan to put the house up on the level area made by the wall
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View from the futute house site. The neighbor has agreed to take out a few trees to get us a peak at the Olympics
 
Christopher Colwell
Posts: 16
Location: Seattle Area
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The Ponds. I have much to learn
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The smaller and lower pond. Its almost dry in this pic which was taken in late august.
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THe upper Pond. Quite low. I am hoping I can do some work on these ponds and make them deeper so someone could jump in, natural pool style, but I need to lots of reading on ponds.
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What you see when you turn around from the last pic. This is up hill east into the wilderness. Might clear this of branches and try to put a sauna here if the "natural pool" idea was possible.
 
Eddie Conna
Posts: 88
Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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First, the land looks awesome.  Congrats.

My questions:

Why can't the cabins be lived in?  That seems REALLY suspect to me. 

I'd be VERY suspect about ANYTHING "officials" tell you.  While some can be great, and reasonable, I've found in some municipalities, they often flat out lie.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! 

If those cabins were permitted, (way back when), before CofO's were required, there it's likely that there is NOTHING the county can do to prevent you from living in it.  It would be "grandfathered" in.   

I discovered this when i bought my tiny house here in LA county.  My place DID have some unpermitted stuff on it, but the original cottage from 1937 WAS permitted.

I got copies of the permit from a permit search service, but when i asked the officials at Building and Safety, they claimed "nothing was permitted and everything had to be bulldozed to the ground".  They insisted that was the case... until I produced the permit from 1937 for the cottage.  WHICH, it turns out, they had a copy of in their file... in fact, it was the VERY FIRST piece of paper they had on the very top of the file.  When I pointed out that they had just committed an act of fraud, and since two of them did it together, it now would be legally classified as a conspiracy, they began quickly backpedaling.

Next claim, was that I didn't have a septic permit.  But in 1937, one permit was all that was needed, and since the house permit clearly showed bathroom, as far as I was concerned, that was enough.

Then they claimed there was no CofO.  Again, I pointed out in 1937, that wasn't required.

They went round and round, and at one point, even claimed "grandfathering doesn't exist."  I replied, "funny, the lawyer I spoke to tells me he's sued you guys numerous times over this, and won every time..."  They stammered, and finally admitted that they lose every case involving "grandfather" issues, but as far as "they are concerned" grandfathering doesn't exist, even if the courts say it does.  (YEAH, they actually said that... )  

The inspector actually said, "Well, your permit is only for a 240 square foot house, do you want to live in that?"  I replied, "it's none of your damn business what size house I want to live in."  Her boss turned to her and said, "he's right.  You can go now..." and he chased her off.   
 
He and I went round and round, and eventually, they realized I would be far more trouble and take far more time than they wanted to invest, and they simply disappeared.  That was 5 years ago, and I've never heard from them since. 

As I've done with EVERY property I own, I fenced, gated, and locked the property down, along with very strongly worded no-tresspassing signs from NARLO... (google it.  Their no trespassing signs are great.)

In doing so, I've NEVER had a problem. 

NO OFFICIAL has a right to enter your property unless one of three things exist:

1) It is a dire immediate impending emergency, (i.e., your house is on fire)

2) You let them

3) They have a search warrant as prescribed by the constitution of the USA.  Warrants are issued for CRIMINAL matters, not so much for code enforcement issues, but that is changing in some areas. 

Officials will often coerce, trick, or try to get you to let them on the site.  DON'T DO IT.  They may threaten to come back with a warrant.  Tell them that's fine, they can do that.   

I've also found that WHEN they show up, I pull out my phone and start recording, and I tell them I'm doing so.  They NEVER want to be filmed, because then there is a record of what's been discussed, and they cannot deny it later.  Often the "co-ercive tactics they use suddenly stop when faced with a camera."  The usual response is, "can you turn that off, we just want to talk to you." 

I always reply, "at the advice of my attorney, I don't talk to anyone unless there's a record of it so we can be clear on what's been discussed and agreed upon."  I also insist they put any inquiries in WRITING.  AGAIN, they don't want to do that because it leaves a paper trail, and they can then be held accountable. 

One time, I got an email from a building official who wanted to "set up a meeting" at another property I owned and had an open permit on to discuss what was going on.  I asked "who would be at this meeting?"

He replied, "someone from zoning, a grading person, the local inspector, the head inspector, and possibly a few others."  (they were upset that the project wasn't moving 'fast enough' for them... even though I had adhered to every single code, there were no complaints, and everything was being done properly... they just didn't like that it wasn't moving fast enough for THEM.    

I wrote back, "that's fine.  I need a complete list of WHO exactly will be there, and each and every one of them should come knowing that I, at the advice of my attorney, will be recording the meeting both audio, and visually, so there is no confusion later on what's been discussed and agreed upon.  Every official will need to confirm, via email, that they understand they will be recorded and agree to that."

It wasn't 3 minutes later that I got the following reply:  "No need to have a meeting.  Continue as you are."

And I've got even MORE stories of officials pulling this type of stuff.  It's not just Building and Safety either.  Animal Control, Zoning, and many others all use similar coercive and dishonest tactics in the pursuit of levying fines and fees.  If you know your rights as a land owner, they often disappear.

Let me be clear.  I'm NOT advocating doing things one shouldn't be doing, or breaking codes, or being flagrant about it.  That WILL get you in trouble. 

I AM saying you often CANNOT trust what government officials tell you, and doing your own homework, and knowing your rights is a VERY important part of land ownership. 


 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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@Eddie: My friend, I wish I had more than a like to give you.

I'm on my last slice of pie and don't have the authority to give apples, but I'd give you an entire apple pie for that post were it within my ability.

Awesome stuff [including the recommendation for NARLO no trespassing signs.]

Thanks again for the awesome post.
 
Eddie Conna
Posts: 88
Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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Thanks Kurt. 

My "journey" in dealing with overzealous officials had led me to do a TON of research... and when i learned what I do now, I was dumbfounded that these officials would even ATTEMPT to do what they do.  but because most people have no idea what their rights are, they take advantage of that.  Plus the fact is, most people are good people who just want to play by the rules, and do the right thing.  Problem is, officials often abuse that trust, all while trying to collect more fees and fines, etc, to justify their jobs. 

Out here in LA, they have what they call the  "NAT" team... for "Nuisance Abatement Team."  These are officials accompanied by heavily armed SWAT type cops who will visit residents where there have been zoning or B&S code violations.  One of my neighbors had them show up because he had a trailer parked on his lot.  because the lot was "separate" from his house lot, and technically was listed as a 'vacant" lot, he couldn't have anything parked on it.  So a SWAT team visited him.  Yeah.  Total intimidation tactics. 

One official admitted during a discussion that the purpose of the NAT teams are to "coerce and intimidate property owners that don't know their rights into compliance."  Those were his EXACT words.

Animal Control once sent me a letter because an angry neighbor reported that I had a "vicious" dog.  (the dog had barked at her.)  The irony is, that dog doesn't have a viscous bone in his body.  He's a creampuff.  But he's big, and black and he barks sometimes when people walk by, so people sometimes are scared of him.

I called, and asked for the email of the officer that sent me the letter.  They asked for the case number.  I refused.  We went back and forth, and eventually after about 10 minutes, they caved and gave me the email.

I then emailed the guy a "Public Servants Questionnaire".... (Google it if you don't know what it is.  These can SAVE YOUR ASS.)  Along with a note explaining that "at the advice of my attorney, I cannot talk to them until they've filled it out."

The public servants questionnaire basically asks for the following:

The officials name
Contact information so they can be served in the event a legal issue.
The name of the complainant.
What exactly the information they are requesting will be used for.
Copies of any codes they are citing
and lastly, they must sign agreeing to adhere to all of my rights.

Pretty basic, right?  NOPE.  The officials sent the PSQ up the chain, eventually to the legal department, and the head of legal emailed me back and said there was no way they could sign that.

We went back and forth, I kept asking why exactly county officials would refuse to provide information I'm legally entitled to, and why they would refuse to adhere to the law and respect my rights.

Eventually, the head lawyer emailed me back and said, "the matter is settled, there is nothing for us to discuss."

They NEVER had my name, or address, or anything else, so they had no idea who I even was.  The letter I was sent was the only correspondence they sent me.  No follow up, NOTHING.  The matter disappeared. 

THIS is how you can handle these overzealous officials.  Don't play THEIR game, make them play YOURS.  Make them RESPONSIBLE and ACCOUNTABLE for what they do.  Make it so there is a paper trail, audio and video of any discussions, and they won't want to have anything to do with you 99% of the time. 

I've always made it clear I'm WILLING to discuss with them, but it will be on MY terms... (i.e., a record of what's been discussed.)  NOT ONCE have they wanted to continue.  The SECOND they know they're accountable and responsible, they DISAPPEAR.


The NARLO No Trespassing signs are great.  I've had officials walk up to my gate, read them, and immediate turn around and walk away.  They don't want anything to do with anyone who knows their rights and will fight for them.   






 
Eddie Conna
Posts: 88
Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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The importance of fencing, gating, locking, and posting no trespass signs on your property.

I should add this to my previous posts. 

I ALWAYS fence, gate, lock, and post no trespass signs because it protects ME from officials prying eyes.

An official cannot legally enter your property if it's fenced, gated, locked, and posted. 

If your property is NOT fenced, gated, locked, and posted, there is a "legal presumption" that you are ok with people entering your property unobstructed.  (See where this is headed?)

Thus, if an official can walk onto your property unobstructed, and they then see something they can/want to cite, fine, harass you for, you will be cited. 

HOWEVER, they cannot cite you for something they cannot SEE.  If they cannot enter your property legally, they can't see anything.  (Assuming whatever it is can't be seen from the edge of the property.)

The key is to do ALL 4 THINGS.  Fence, Gate, LOCK, and post. 

If you just fence, but there is no gate, officials can claim there was nothing stopping them from entering.  Even if it's posted, they can claim they didn't see the signs.  This is why cops will ask permission to enter a property, or home, if the place is gated.  because THEY know if they just enter, that's technically not legal, and they are guilty of criminal trespass, as well as a warrantless search, which is a violation of your 4th amendment rights.  By them ASKING you if they can enter, and you saying YES, you've now given them permission to enter the property, and have consented to a search.  If they see something, they can then cite you.

If the property is gated, but not locked, they can claim the gate was open.

ALL 4 THINGS MUST be done.  Fence, gate, lock, and post.  If your property is HUGE, and fencing simply isn't a practical option, then fencing, gating locking, and posting where the normal entrance would be often is enough.  An official would have a hard time arguing that they just "happened" to miss the signs, gate, etc, because they decided to approach your property by walking through the woods. 

If any official asks to enter the property, here's what I do.

I pull out my camera phone, and start filming.  I flat out tell them I CANNOT, "at the advice of my attorney", engage in discussions with ANY OFFICIALS about ANY matters, without a record of what's been discussed.  (You also can refuse to speak to them without an attorney present, which I recommend.)  The filming is so I can find out WHO they are, WHAT they want, etc.  But I don't offer them any information, NOR do I answer any questions without my attorney present.      

Once filming, I ask them to answer the questions on the Public Servants Quesntionaire.  (You can also download the PSQ from numerous sites online, and ask them to fill it out... which always chases them away.) 

Again, the purpose of getting them to answer questions is severalfold:

1) you want to find out WHY they are there.
2) You want THEM to learn that you won't be an easy target, and that coming after you will be a LONG drawn out battle.

Officials will also claim that they have the "right" to enter your property.  They do NOT, and they are LYING.  Sometimes, the municipal code will even say they can.  To which I've replied, "your municipal code does not trump the constitution of the United States.  I do NOT give you permission to enter, and if you do, you will be faced with a civil rights lawsuit for an illegal and warrantless search."

Another thing I'd advice.  Security Cameras on a DVR system.  These can work WONDERS.

We had an issue awhile back where Animal Control was "canvassing" the neighborhood... (aka, illegally searching homes), looking for people with unregistered pets.  They would show up, and if no one was home, the property owner got a citation, (even if they didn't own an animal) saying they owed $40 for an "inspection fee" and would be charged every time they came back.  Of course, no one KNEW they were even coming by, this was done during normal business hours when people were working, AND even people without pets were citied and fined!

The neighborhood complained, officials claimed it was all "legal" and that they never entered a property with a closed gate.  When several neighbors produced video security footage of the officers opening gates, and even climbing over fences, Animal Control ceased their efforts. 

Unfortunately, this is the world we sometimes live in.  Knowing your rights is half the battle. 


Hope that helps.
 
Eddie Conna
Posts: 88
Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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Christopher Colwell wrote:Next batch
There are Grapes on the property, but they are so overgrown with blackberries Im probably gonna have to take the whole hedge to the ground. Any input on this would be welcome.



I wouldn't take any of it to the ground.  Thin it out to make it harvestable, but don't tear it all out! 

The cabin had a mouse infestation. they are either gone, or have learned to avoid poison. slowly ripping out all the affected insulation and stripping it down to sanitize it, planning a 50/50 bleach and water spray(thoughts?). What do you guys think of KILZ? Was considering priming with that to seal anything nasty into the wood, but I don't like using chemicals if I don't have to.


Get one of those electric zapper traps.  mouse goes in, gets electrocuted, dies quickly and painlessly, and you reset the trap.  Odds are, a couple of traps would be needed, they should be checked every hour or so.  You'll clear the place of vermin in no time, without poison and without rodents dying in the walls and then stinking as they decay.

As for the insulation.  I'd use the spray in two-part expanding foam stuff.  Mice and rats don't like it, it seals everything AIR TIGHT, and is actually easier to work with.  you need to buy the gear and stuff, but once you have that, it's fairly easy. 
 
Joy Oasis
Posts: 227
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Eddie Conna wrote:.

An official cannot legally enter your property if it's fenced, gated, locked, and posted. 



your post is so useful. Thank you. You are so right about all kinds of officials. When my son started school they told me, that he can't go, unless he has vaccines. They conveniently "forgot" to inform me, that I could sign, that vaccines are against my philosophical belief. Just like many teachers conveniently forget, that our children do not have to take state tests, if parent signs, that they do not want them to.
 
Allan Niass
Posts: 1
Location: 83 Bee Farm Road Erowal Bay NSW Australia
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We are in somewhat a similar position, so I'd love to discuss it. eftpos4u@gmail.com Allan Niass
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 563
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Christopher Colwell wrote:  No berries when we came back, but there was a pile of bear crap just outside the fence that would not have looked out of place in Jurassic park.


That belongs on a bumper sticker.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 563
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Congratulations on having land!
If no one mentioned it yet, you might look into opensourceecology.org's open building institute houses--they're supposed to be coming out next year, and it will be the ecologically sound version of pre-fabricated with community labor and aesthetics.  Up to code.  Modular, adaptable, vastly less expensive than a normal house but still manageable for someone nearing retirement age, in my view. 

Building bridges with your neighbors is a good idea too.  Have them over for dinner, bring them pie, get to know them, listen. 

Good luck!
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 763
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Regarding the grapes and himalayan blackberries I recommend a pole hedge trimmer.  Start immediately trimming them back to where you want them and keep them trimmed all winter. The grapes will root where they touch the ground. That arching black berry vine in the future house view has deliberately reached out to root tip and start anew clone.  Each clone will make a bulb root crown and once it reaches the size of a softball they are almost impossible to kill so the root has to be dug out.  I ordered a special broad fork from Meadow Creature on Vashon Island to dig them out. I would recommend completely disassembling the rock pile to get all the roots out. You can see how I reassembled mine to be a strawberry bed in the permaculture rocks thread.
With management I am able to keep two rows of himalayan blackberries accessible and highly productive even sell some through the co-op.
Because of snow causing a arbor collapse and not having the hedge trimmer I have some of my grapes spread out where I cant reach them to harvest and the blackberries have invaded but I am beginning to get control with the hedge trimmer.

As for permitting what you want to do one Pierce Count  employee explained they were verbally informed that they were to seem to be as helpful as possible but collect every fee possible and take responsibility for nothing. The septic engineer has to take responsibility for the septic system and the surveyor has to take responsibility for the hous site being 18 feet above the 1 foot flood plain even though it is clearly shown on the elevations for the septic design. Then the banks require the same thing
 
Eddie Conna
Posts: 88
Location: Los Angeles for now, Maybe Idaho soon...
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Hans Quistorff wrote:

As for permitting what you want to do one Pierce Count  employee explained they were verbally informed that they were to seem to be as helpful as possible but collect every fee possible and take responsibility for nothing. The septic engineer has to take responsibility for the septic system and the surveyor has to take responsibility for the hous site being 18 feet above the 1 foot flood plain even though it is clearly shown on the elevations for the septic design. Then the banks require the same thing


THIS is where recording them and telling them you're doing so works WONDERS.  They ARE responsible, whether they claim it or not.  Let them know you're recording, "at the advice of your attorney", and because you want to make sure you don't misunderstand anything.  Watch how quickly they stop making demands, or become very careful about what they demand.

Another good way to go is to simply REFUSE to "discuss" anything with them.  Do it ALL via email.  That way there is a written documentation of what's been discussed.

If you have NO OTHER OPTION, then discuss, being careful not to give them any information.  Ask questions.  get answers.  Write them down.  Then EMAIL them with the questions and answers, and ask them to respond and confirm you understood their requests and demands correctly.

When officials aren't doing anything wrong, they have no issue with being recorded, or communicating via email.  But if they are reluctant, that should be your first warning sign something isn't kosher...


 
Dan Robinson
Posts: 12
Location: Ames, IA
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Looks like an awesome piece of property. Keep us posted as you proceed with development.

I have some undeveloped land down in TN, which I can't develop anytime soon, due to living so far away. I'm trying to come up with ideas; so, it's nice to see what other people are doing.

Good luck!
 
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