Letters to the Editor

Letter | Frustration with city's permitting process

I am writing because of our absolute and complete frustration over the permitting system at the City of Mercer Island.

Two years ago, my husband Arthur Walden and I decided that we would pursue building a woodworking shop, about the size of a two-car garage, and a patio cover on a portion of our deck. We decided to also build the workshop so that it could at some future date be used as an ADU. We would have the plumbing and sewer stubbed to the workshop. Our architect, Rich Jones of Nash Jones Anderson — a very qualified person who I personally know, and I am familiar with many of the homes he has designed on Mercer Island — assured us it was his experience that this small project could be designed and approved in short order.

On Sept. 9, 2010, we went through the ADU approval process and that was approved in short order. It is since then that we feel we have been put through the wringer. We have been required to hire the following professionals: James Strange of Geotech Engineer, a soils engineer; Ron Hughes, a drainage engineer, Mike Mitchell of Mitchell Engineering, a structural engineer; all of whom are professional engineers and can charge handsome fees for their opinions and work.  We are required to install a huge water retention system and build the workshop with a hydraulic pin pile system in the foundation. We have gotten bids for this work and the amount of cement alone that is required is beyond comprehension.  The latest news we had before actually starting the permit process is that we have to obtain and pay for a separate permit to install new lines and upsize the water meter. We originally were Intake Screening Number 1009-067, which has since been changed to Intake Screening Number 1102-120.

While this seems extremely over the top, to put it mildly, we have recovered from the news of the financial impact and decided to continue in our plan to build this Taj Mahal.

Since sometime in February we, as well as our architect, thought the approval of our permit was eminent. Each time we have checked on it, we have found that the whole project has been kicked out of the system because of some question or missing item, i.e., a missing engineer’s stamp that fell off in the electronic transmission of the project from the architect to the Development Department. A phone call to either me or my architect would have been helpful. This took care of the month of May. On May 31, my husband and I spent about half a day in the city offices trying to understand why we were on this merry-go-round. On May 31 the whole project was re-submitted electronically and hand carried to the city by our architect. We got an email from Linda Pineau on June 1 telling us that the project was once again in final review, and if all went well, it would be approved by June 14. I had also asked Dave Henderson to put me down as the project manager so that I can be apprised of any problems and delays. I called in on June 17, and was told they contacted my architect a couple of days previous with questions about the patio roof, and in lieu of the work our very qualified architect has done we may have to hire a structural engineer.

This is absolutely unacceptable. It seems like we are stuck in this train and will never get off. Each time it goes before one of the many different “reviewers,” they feel it is their duty to find something new to either request or object to, and we have to start all over.

Suzanne Lane

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