Too many federal rules? Local regs just as bad

I am sick and tired of being told what to do by bureaucrats who have no business or right to stick their nose into my business. I am sure many others have the same issue with government.

Everyone talks about Obamacare and all the bad federal attacks on our basic freedom. Freedom to do what we want as long as we don’t hurt others is the basis of our country. But have you considered our local regulatory environment?

Most small business owners on a daily basis have to deal with that ever-increasing regulation. Perhaps those of you that earn a living on a W-2 may not be as aware of the issue as the small business community. But it affects your standard and style of living as well the self-employed.

We are supposed to be a conservative bastion here in Fayette County. Our Republican politicians spout off about small government, less regulation, and freedom. But their results contrast with their rhetoric.

In the last 10 years the level of regulation, permitting, licensing, and control by our county and state governments has exploded in my industry alone. I would be willing to bet that people from many other industries can tell similar stories. Homeowners may also have stories to tell about their private mistreatment by local or state government as well.

In this letter, I will explain five examples of how I have been mistreated in the last year. I hope others will follow suit. Perhaps The Citizen can start a “local and state government outrage of the week” section.

1. I am a builder by profession. The engineering and paperwork submissions required to get a building permit have increased 10-fold in the last decade. So you are thinking, “So what, that doesn’t affect me, I hate builders anyways.”

Yes, it actually does affect you quite often. Any business that is subjected to needless expense and regulatory hassles will pass the cost on to the consumer. How much regulatory expense is built into your car, your sofa, your medical bills, or your cost to renovate your home, etc.? Additionally, shouldn’t we protect everyone’s freedom as we would our own? Don’t let the government divide us and conquer. Your freedom could be next.

2. I am required to pay for expensive engineering fees for designs that have common sense, industry standard solutions in order to permit a house. All the paperwork does is fill a filing cabinet and cover some bureaucrat’s butt.

In addition if I build the same plan again, I have to pay to have the engineering done again (basically the engineer changes the lot number on the letter and charges me $300). The previous engineering is not acceptable even though it is identical other than the lot number.

Doesn’t that seem idiotic? What private organization would waste money and effort like that? Only government does it regularly. I guess it’s no big deal to waste other people’s money.

3. If you own land adjacent to water, your property is subject to a MFFE (minimum finished floor elevation). This is supposed to keep your house from flooding. The MFFE is set three vertical feet above the 100-year flood plain. This 100-year flood line is supposed to be the highest point that a flood could theoretically reach from the worst storm in a 100 years.

The reality is that the 100-year flood line is based upon such conservative assumptions that it should be called the million-year flood line. Sort of like getting hit by lightning and winning Power Ball on the same day.

In my case, the lot I own straddles a dam on a small lake. To reach the 100-year line, the flooding water would have to fill the lake’s spillway and continue to rise to one foot above the top of the lake’s dam.

Envision the quantity of water flowing over Niagara Falls. This lake has a watershed of 280 acres. Where is the volume of water that could possibly raise the lake 12 inches above the top of a dam and sustain that level? That scenario does not exist. The MFFE is set three feet above this 100-year flood line (or four feet above the level of the dam).

Do you see my point? This isn’t a safety issue; they are trying to control land use.

I pointed these issues out to the county committee that regulates variances to the MFFE level. They said, “I did not demonstrate enough of a hardship” to be granted a variance. Who are they to tell me what to do with my own land? This arbitrary ruling cost me about $20,000 in increased site development costs (mostly bringing in a huge quantity of dirt to raise the yard).

Why would government take the trouble to protect me from the impossible? The only reason I can think of is that the regulation is not really meant to protect me, but to control me and my property.

This type of regulation is nothing but a blatant government land grab. Why pay for land if you can control it through regulation for free?

This affects thousands of people in this county alone. You don’t just have to back up to a raging river or a lake; having a small stream on your property is enough for them to take your right to use your land away from you based on the mythical 100-year flood plain.

Also check out related issues like protective buffers around creeks and rivers. The new definition of “wetland” is also a similar tool for land control.

4. If you clear land to build a house in an area without a master erosion plan, you are required to create an elaborately detailed plan of erosion control just for that one lot. They cost about $450. They are required whether the lot is flat or has any real erosion potential.

Builders don’t need these plans. Like the engineering issues, the industry has standard, common sense techniques for planning silt fence, ground cover, and gravel pads. The $450 would be better spent on actual silt fence or ground cover.

The plans go directly to someone’s filing cabinet in order to, yet again, cover some bureaucrat’s posterior. If you have two lots next to each other, each one would have to have its own plan.

5. Recently I bought a new company car. Two weeks later I tried to add my name to the title to please my credit union in order to refinance the loan. Both the county and state DMV offices told me that I would have to pay another 6.5 percent ad valorem tax to change the title.

There was no new sale taking place, no money changed hands, yet they wanted to double-tax me for a simple clerical change. Does that seem fair? Is that the intent of this new law?

Writing this opinion letter has probably put me on multiple hit lists, but it is too important to fight back against government encroachment to not speak up.

I welcome the fight if anyone in government would like to try to punish me for speaking my mind. However, this is not meant as a personal attack on any particular person; it is an attempt to complain about the rules, procedures, and paperwork that restricts our freedom and our free use of or property.

As you can see, you don’t have to look to Washington to find stupid things done for stupid reasons by bureaucratic, controlling people.

Even a Republican state and a Republican county are both capable of producing needless regulations that are expensive for the citizenry to comply with and that infringe on our freedom.

The question is why? Why do supposedly free market, small government politicians impose these types of controls? Are they really RINOs, or are they just incompetent as lawmakers?

I look forward to reading other people’s stories of how our local and state governments have hurt their businesses or taken rights and property from them personally.

Bill Gilmer
Fayetteville, Ga.

[Editor’s note: Mr. Gilmer is on to something important. I invite our readers to email me (editor@TheCitizen.com) and tell their stories of LOCAL government over-regulation, waste and just plain stupidity. You will see their stories in The Citizen.]