Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ponding Done, Ready for Inspection?

Now that our ponding is done, we should be ready for an inspection so that we can get our Certificate of Plat Compliance, right?


I mean, I talked with Sal Alonzo, engineer at Roads and Bridges that approved our grading plans, and he assured me THREE TIMES that all that would be inspected was the ponding area. So what could be wrong?

We had an inspector come out, Fabian, and he was concerned about a few things:
  1. Slight issue with drainage toward pond (needed slightly larger slope)
  2. No elevation marker in the pond
  3. No driveway layout (we need a paved driveway?!)
Mario fixed issue (1) by about the time Fabian left. Also, as he was leaving, Fabian called Sal Alonzo and asked about issue (2). Luckily, we don't need to add an elevation marker (6" diameter PVC, 3' long, buried completely in the bottom of our pond and then filled with concrete). Issue (3) is still an ongoing problem.

Apparently, the county wants us to pave the first 10' of our driveway, coming from Old Butterfield toward our land. The thing that makes me mad is that this is their property. There is a Right Of Way of 60' between our land and the road. There is also an oil pipeline buried under this ROW, about 12' off of the road.

I have now spoken to Gilbert SaldaƱa, senior engineer at the county Roads and Bridges, about this matter multiple times. First, on the phone yesterday, and then again in person today. Here's what he said yesterday:
  • Normally the entire drive must be paved from Edge Of Pavement to my Property Line. But since EOP to PL is 60', they're being nice and only making us pave 10'.
  • Paving is to protect their road from our gravel driveway.
  • It doesn't matter that no one else within a 10 mile radius of Hueco Tanks has a paved driveway entry, we have to do it just because.
Again, the problem is that we can't get utilities (electric) until we have this cert, and we can't pave our driveway without electricity. Again, nice circular logic. We also can't get onto our property via our driveway during this inspection process, since we have to lay out the driveway formwork and reinforcement and get that inspected prior to pouring the concrete. So we have to make a NEW driveway to keep working...

I kept fighting back, saying it is ridiculous that I have to pave their property and that no one else has done this in our area, but that didn't really change Gilbert's mind much. What I did finally find out was that we can get a temporary cert to get electric and septic installed. Why they never told me this before, I have no idea.

So today I drove in to Roads and Bridges, which inexplicably is downtown, even though their jurisdiction is outside the city limits. I asked for our temporary cert, and Louis Rodriguez started working on it. I also asked to speak to Gilbert. Eventually, Louis gave me two pieces of paper, one was a letter to El Paso Electric stating they should give us electric service due to a previous lawsuit between Hueco Mountain Estates and the State of Texas, the other being a sheet granting us the ability to get a septic permit. Neither document was a temporary certificate of plat compliance.

Gilbert eventually came out to talk with me, and I found out a few new things:
  1. We can NEVER get a certificate of plat compliance because we won't have city water
  2. All of these inspections and grading are so that we are compliant with our flood plain development permit
  3. He will consider my arguments against paving our driveway, as I showed him photos of their own gravel roads entering directly onto the paved roads without a 10' buffer zone.
Tackling issue (1). WHAT?! I spoke to Louis Rodriguez on more than one occasion and he said we HAD to do this grading plan to get a cert. But we can't ever get a cert. Apparently there was a legal battle a few decades ago between the Hueco Mountain Estates and the State of Texas. Texas lost, meaning the state had to allow land owners here the ability to connect to utilities (among other things) without a certificate of plat compliance. Our realtor John Mills says that Louis was around when the lawsuits actually happened. So how does he not know we never could get a cert? I even specifically asked him about that point, three months ago, as to whether we really had to have a cert to get electric and he said yes. Way to drop the ball on that one...

Now issue (2). This all begs the question, did we ever actually have to hire an engineer for a grading plan, and dig a pond, and go through all this BS? I don't know yet, because I'm still trying to be nice while Gilbert decides whether we really have to pave our driveway. But my understanding now is that no, we didn't need to do any of this. We should have been able to get this letter for the electric company, and this other document for our septic, without any ponding. I assume this because technically our ponding didn't pass inspection, yet we still got these documents. So we are now out about $7,000 and over three months behind, likely just because the county can't get its shit together long enough to remember that they were almost sued a couple decades ago for essentially this same stuff.

What did I learn? County officials don't know what they are doing. I still have yet to be given the legal standing they have to force us to pave our driveway or even require this ponding. There is nothing on their website about driveways, and I finally got a paper copy of an archaic driveway permit form which assumes your road has curbs and drainage. Which ours doesn't.

::End Of Rant::