Dear Mr. Henry,
Thank you for your time. I am the woman who briefly spoke with you at Coffee Oasis this afternoon regarding my driveway. I am going to try to give you as much detail as I can on the history of my misunderstanding with the City of Poulsbo. I appreciate your patience in advance.
We bought our home in October 2009. Close of escrow was delayed while we waited for the easement agreement (attached) to be signed by Mayor Quade and filed with Kitsap County. We also were required to sign an addendum releasing the owner, Mr. Langdon, from the responsibility of having the septic and well inspected as they were soon to be capped and replaced by the City of Poulsbo with city water and sewer. All the communication we had during the escrow process led us to believe that soon the City of Poulsbo would be installing a sewer line down the driveway, replacing the culvert in the driveway, resurfacing the driveway, and hooking up city sewer and water. We are still waiting for all this to happen.
Our driveway crosses Bjorgen creek. In fact, Bjorgen Creek completely bisects our property and the driveway is the only place to get across to the other side. The gravel driveway was created in 1976 and includes a 2-foot culvert underneath. All our utilities pass through the driveway from Noll Road. These include: 7,200 volt electric power line (transformer up by barn), telephone cable, main water line, and septic effluent pipe.
Not too long after we had bought the house, a hole developed in the driveway over the culvert. I called Public Works at the City of Poulsbo and a crew was at our home within an hour or so to repair the hole. Workers determined that the hole formed because the culvert had not been kept properly cleaned out of leaves and branches. We agreed to work together with the City to ensure the culvert stayed clear. We were treated with great kindness and respect by Foreman Joe Walker.
On March 9th, 2011, high water levels during a very heavy rain caused another hole to develop in the driveway. This was was bigger than the one the city fixed. I once again called Public Works right away. This time, I was told that it is not the City's responsibility to repair driveways on private property, easement agreement or not. So, we began the 5-month endeavor to get permission from DFW and the City to fill in the hole ourselves.
When Gina Piazza from DFW visited us, she told me she wanted to me install a repair in my front yard "similar to what DOT did at 305 and Johnson". I recalled how my boys slept on the floor of my bedroom that summer because they were convinced giants were coming after us, and my response was to laugh out loud. I never could have imagined that she was serious but the look on her face instantly told me that not only was she very serious but my response did not please her the least. The next thing I knew, an officer with a badge and gun was doing a criminal background check on me. Mr. Henry, I've not even ever had a parking ticket! Can you imagine my shock? Keri Weaver from the City of Poulsbo Planning Department was there with Ms. Piazza. Those two appear to have a friendship and I fear Ms. Weaver's allegiance to Ms. Piazza may be what caused the bumps down the road with her--though I may be completely off-base with that conjecture.
On April 19th, our lawyer Richard Shattuck contacted James Haney regarding our situation. We believed that the City had a responsibility to fulfill the terms of the easement agreement. On May 20th we received Mr. Haney's response that the City would not comply. I have attached a copy of the correspondence for your review.
I found it to be a bit irritating that after the City had told us they were not responsible for our driveway, Foreman Keith (whose last name I can't pronounce but everyone knows who I'm talking about when I say "the hothead") would stop by our property at least once a day to inspect the hole. He would be in my driveway with his truck and tools, talking on his cellphone and waving his arms about, but he was not here to help. Once, he wandered all over our property, inspecting many things, but never came to the door. I mentioned to Ms. Weaver that this upset me and she said that Keith had never been to our property. I asked her how she knew and she said she had confirmed it with the Mayor. (Mayor Erickson does not remember being asked about Foreman Keith's frequent visits to our property--and really, how on earth would the Mayor know such details of the daily schedule of an employee not directly under her supervision?). What is interesting is that when I called Mr. Berezowsky to complain, the visits stopped.
For the next 5 months, I spent way too much of my time (I homeschool my special needs boys) working on a repair solution that would please everyone. What made things particularly frustrating was that the people I dealt with at the City of Poulsbo treated me as if I am just some confused housewife. Please excuse my frankness Mr. Henry, but if one more person at the City of Poulsbo refers to me as "confused", I'm going to scream. They would say things like, "Oh, you just have an easement agreement" and brush me off. Mr. Henry, take a look through those 8 pages. That is a contract if you ask me. And, I am not just some dumb housewife. When these young planners were still trying to get their driver's licenses, I was traveling around the country to city governments such as Poulsbo's to teach city workers how to perform Geographic Information Systems analysis. I wrote the textbooks for the training courses at ESRI. I spent 15 years in the field of environmental research and planning, leading up the GIS departments in companies such as Southern California Edison, KTU+A, and the Center for Earth Systems Analysis and Research. These youngsters think they have such big fish to fry with the sensitive habitat near my driveway but heck, I was the GIS lead on the Western Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Program which covered 1.2 million acres of sensitive habitat. I was also the technical lead on the Southern California Association of Governments Land Use Database, which was a multi-million dollar project that we started back in 1989 that completely mapped all land use for most of the counties in Southern California. Believe me, it has taken much self-control on my part not to give these young people at both the city and DFW a piece of my mind.
Eventually, Ms. Piazza was removed from our case and we dealt with her supervisor after that. Mr. Dave Kloempken is a reasonable man and admitted to me in a phone conversation that our family had not been treated with respect. Mr. Kloempken (with the permission of his supervisor) offered an apology from DFW.
At the city, I started working with Barry Berezowsky instead of Ms. Weaver. Yet, Ms. Weaver stayed involved on her own. At one point, she sent out an email to individuals at the City and DFW, as well as the City attorney and the Suquamish Tribe. Her email to me stated, "To whom it may concern:
Please note that per Chapter 15.35.110.A.6., PMC, clearing and/or grading on a site (including logging for commercial purposes) that is not officially-designated forest land is not allowed without an approved future development proposal. Since the Weers are not proposing to develop their property, a clearing permit could not be issued.
How Ms. Weaver's understanding went from filling in a hole in our driveway to cutting down all the trees on our property I'll never understand. But, I do feel that such inflammatory emails only serve to make us look like the bad guy. How is that helpful? And myself, being a liberty-loving individual (note my email address) who likes to know my rights in every situation, I became curious enough to give DNR a call. I learned that as we are still an acreage lot, we actually do have the right to clearcut our land if we choose to. The only provision with DNR is that we allow the land to rest for 10 years afterwards since we live in a city. So, not only was Ms. Weaver's correspondence inflammatory, it was also incorrect.
We finally did get Mr. Berezowsky to agree that no City permits were needed to fill in the hole in our driveway and we were ready to get to work. After hearing from Mr. Berezowsky that the City was in no way to be involved, SEPA jurisdiction was turned over to DFW and Mr. Kloempken granted us a Hydrologic Project Approval (attached) to repair our driveway.
Oh, but wait...Ms. Weaver sends out another email. She attaches a copy of the HPA (the same one I've attached to this email) and writes, "Good morning Mrs. Weer, I’m happy to see that Fish & Wildlife has issued the HPA for your repair and restoration work. This is just a reminder that prior to any work on a bridge replacement, the design and construction methods will need to be approved by the City, and a building permit issued for the work. When you are ready to apply for a building permit, please contact Cherlyn Haley, Building Permit Specialist, at (360) 396-9882 for the application requirements. Thank you.
Yes, she used a much nicer tone this time but now everyone at the City was upset because they thought we were building a bridge without permits. Once again, how did Ms. Weaver go from a repair (as stated in the beginning of her email and listed as the Project Name of the HPA which she included as an attachment) to buidling a bridge? And, why was she even involved as I was dealing directly with Mr. Berezowsky? Mr. Berezosky, who had been very friendly up to this point, called me up and almost lost it with me as he was so angry. He accused me of changing my mind and not informing him. I assured him I had done nothing of the kind. He could not believe me and instead demanded that we start from scratch, I needed to resubmit the repair plans to him and he held a meeting with various representatives from the City to re-assess whether or not permits were needed. Finally, we were given the clear to fill in a hole in our driveway.
For five months we had no access to our home for any kind of emergency vehicle. I was assured this was an "expedited" process due to the serious nature of our request. I dread to wonder how long it takes for the City to agree that no permits are needed on a project that is not expedited. (An interesting side note is that it only took Public Works a few minutes to determine that no permits were needed when they first repaired our driveway.)
In January, I started attending the City Council meetings in an effort to support Coffee Oasis. I became acquainted with Mayor Erickson after I had made a comment in an article in the Kitsap Sun about homeowners saying "Not in my backyard!" to Coffee Oasis that I would be glad to donate the front acre of our property for the construction of the teen center. Once the go-ahead was given for the Iverson location, I started visiting the Mayor on a regular basis to inquire as to the status of permitting for the remodel. After speaking to dozens and dozens of other citizens who had also had great problems getting permits through the planning department, I was a bit wary and took it upon myself to be a bit of a watchdog for CO. When I met with Mayor Erickson in June, and permits still hadn't been issued, she told me she was embarrassed and ashamed that not even she could push through permits on a very important project. She desires to change how the planning department operates but all the citizens I speak with have little faith that anyone can fix the issues in that department.
For the past year, I've also continued to politely press the Mayor into looking deeper into our easement agreement. Even though our driveway was repaired, the way I look at things--my city made a promise to my family, and that promise has not been kept. I wish to know when and how that promise will be fulfilled.
Last month, on Monday, November 19th, sometime between the hours of 7am and 9am, we lost the entire driveway. There had been heavy rains all Sunday and the runoff from Deer Run was incredible. The water was 6-feet deep and rushing like mighty rapids. We now have a little canyon cut through where our driveway used to be that is about 25 feet wide and 5 feet deep. Our powerline and water main dangle in the air. But, the utilities are still operating and I think that is God's testament of His mercy for the Weer family. If you come down to look, you will marvel. I've attached a few pictures.
As you can see, our home is about a football-field-length away up a steep hill. There is absolutely no way for any emergency vehicle to reach us. We are completely unprotected. My husband Steve and I have two boys, ages 8 and 11.
So, we still wait for the City to fulfill the easement agreement. From what I have been able to learn, it appears that the City would like a developer to pay for and install the sewer line down our driveway that is part of the City's Comprehensive Plan. There were developers ready to fulfill this need back in 2008/2009 but they ran out of patience and money while waiting for their plans to get through City Planning. Now, I have heard that Quadrant Homes may be interested in developing up the street from us. They would need to connect into the city sewer system and this could be our saving grace.
Maybe you can help me find the answers to some questions?
1) When will the City of Poulsbo fulfill the requirements of the easement agreement?
2) Will City Planning work efficiently and cooperatively with a developer such as Quadrant Homes to approve plans for a sewer-line to be installed down our driveway (and of course any plans for a housing development on Noll without which there is no need for sewer connection)?
3) May I get a clear, detailed description of just what exactly is defined as "work" in the critical buffer area?
For some clarification on number 3, Mayor Erickson has reminded us that we need to obtain an HPA for any "work" we do. My husband taped some insulation around the newly-exposed water main. Was that "work"? The City of Poulsbo filled in a hole in our driveway without any permits. Was that "work"? Mr. Langdon, the former owner, replaced the driveway a number of times without permits, including as recently as 2006. Was that "work"? Does the definition of "work" change based on who is asking?
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