Sometimes It’s What They Don’t Say 

When you’re trying to get something accomplished, it’s always disappointing to come up against that person who wants to disagree vehemently and debate the subject at hand. Sometimes when a surveyor is performing his duties to recover property boundary evidence in the field, the owner of an adjoining property may come along and try to refute some of the findings of the surveyor. Those discussions can sometimes get emotionally charged and cause some heated debate. 

There are also those situations where the surveyor is required to have some discussion and debate with members of an approving agency, which have the governing authority to approve or deny the plans being prepared. These situations can sometimes be challenging for the design professional and can also cause some major heartburn and headaches for the clients. When I’m doing work for a private client, especially one who wants to use the property they own to the fullest extent or maybe create a lot for one of their children, I tend to put a lot of emotional energy into the approval process, sometimes to my detriment.  

As difficult as it is to have a heated debate over the merits of a subdivision proposal, or other similar approvals, it can be even more disappointing to be met with silence from the party of the approval agency which you are counting on for support. I’ve had two such instances in my career. 

The first situation involved a subdivision of land which was owned by an American Legion club. They were doing some land development for a building and parking lot expansion and decided that they could divest themselves of some excess property, so I was asked to prepare a subdivision plan as part of the land development submission to the local township government. Club members decided that they would create three lots; one to be retained, which contained their building and parking lot, one to be sold and then a third parcel that adjoined a small township park, which they were willing to donate to the local government. 

When a workshop meeting was held at the township office, the government planner was there and found the concept to be acceptable. There were some minor comments from the township engineer regarding compliance with the township ordinances, but overall, it seemed like we had a good proposal. 

When the plan came before the township planning commission at the first public meeting in which our proposal was to be discussed, all of the commissioners looked surprised to learn that we were proposing to donate land to the township and basically said that they didn’t want it. I tried to explain that their planner had reviewed the plans with us and had found the concept to be beneficial. He was present at this planning commission meeting and I called him by name several times as I described our workshop meeting and looked to him for some concurrence. He sat there at the table and looked down at his notes.  

Even when I asked him if what I was saying was true or not he ignored me. The planning commission chair deflected my comments by saying that the plans needed to be revised and that the township would not accept the transference of land. 

In a separate situation I was working for a client who wanted to subdivide several lots along a state highway. This was a rural area and the highway was a local road that was maintained by the state department of transportation (DOT). One of the limiting factors in the number of lots to be created was the location of the proposed driveways. The driveways needed to be approved by the DOT, so I first contacted the permit manager at the local DOT office to assure that I was following the correct procedure for getting the driveways approved. I was told to include all of them on one application. 

After the DOT personnel reviewed our application, they had a number of comments and questions, so they requested a field meeting on the site. As I stood there with the permit manager and the DOT district engineer and discussed the deficiencies with our application, the DOT district engineer questioned why I would try to get approval for multiple driveways on one application. I replied, “Your permit manager told me to do it that way.” The engineer argued that this method was not allowed. I pointed to the permit manager and asked him directly, “Isn’t that what you told me to do?” He looked at his feet and kicked some pebbles around. The district engineer simply told me that he needed to see an application for each driveway. 

We all make mistakes and wish that we could just pretend that we never said the wrong thing, but it’s honorable and, in my opinion, expected, to admit it when you’re wrong.  

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