Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I hate my city

Uh, this might seem like a weird post for the one immediately following our 'look how much we love our house' feature in the paper...awkward.  I have straight up had it with our city.  In the 5 years we've lived here, we have watched our services go down (recycling pickup every two weeks instead of every week, skipping garbage/recycling pickup if your day is a holiday instead of moving it one day later) and our taxes go up.  We currently pay just over $4600 a year for our property taxes, is that not ridiculous?!  Our water bill increases.  Our street doesn't get plowed for over half a day after a snowfall, and after one storm this winter our street NEVER got plowed.  We were sliding around ruts of snow for days.  Our street is full of potholes and good luck catching the dump or any city offices while they are open.  Our assessment keeps going down, making this all the more irritating.  Then a couple weeks ago, the city sidewalk inspector made his rounds and gave me the cherry on the top of my annoyance sundae.  
Shortly after the green spray paint, we got a certified letter note on the door.  What is that, city?  You want me to go to the post office during my lunch hour and wait for 30 minutes for this stupid letter?  Great.  The post office workers yukking it up about how I better 'get ready to shell out some dough for my sidewalk' when handing over the letter was also enjoyable.  It said that we had to fix the difference in elevation between the 75 year old flagstone approach and the sidewalk.  That sand you see by the street was the city fixing a water leak the same day we got the letter.  It is still a pile of sand two weeks later, they are supposedly planting grass...I'll believe that when I see it.  
We have the only flagstone walkway in our neighborhood, and I'm sick at the thought of replacing it.  I decided to call the sidewalk engineer to see what our options were.  When I called the number on the letter, it brought me to a voicemail system where you couldn't move forward without a last name or an extension, of which NEITHER were included on the letter.  Classic!  I called the public works commissioner because his name was on the letter.  I bet he loved that.  
I finally got in contact with the engineer and he told me my options were to get the flagstone level/replaced with a contractor, have the city rip it out and put in bright white concrete, or rip it out entirely and plant grass.  Of course all these options require me going downtown to buy a permit.  And we have until June 21 to do it.  I am so upset about messing with this original part of the house.  
I refuse to have the city pour regular concrete in there, but I don't know how much it will be to fix the flagstone - and if it will even match the old stuff.  I also don't want to take the entire thing out because we use it all the time.  Anyone have any advice?  

27 comments:

LifeBegins@Thirty said...

That is SO SO annoying!!! I'm actually enraged for you. We had something similar happen (well, not similar but just as annoying.) The city came by to trim some branches off a tree in my neighbour's yard - it is a city owned tree. They weren't very good and a bit branch crashed onto my porch railing and snapped it.

Of course, if I want to make an insurance claim, I need to fill out a big form and get THREE written quotes before they would approve it. All because they made a mistake and damaged my property. Lovely.

Anyways - could you cheat a bit and just pull up that one stone and dig some soil out from underneath so the stone is lower? Not flat, mind you, as you won't want to dig up the whole path. Just to get that front edge within whatever the allowable variance would be?

Mayfair Mistress said...

what utter awfulness. The least intensive solution may be to use a saw and grinder with a diamond blade to ease the raised edge to meet the sidewalk. Not ideal, but it would fix the tripping hazard (no permit required either). good luck!

Heather said...

What about breaking up the flagstone into large chunks and using them as stepping stones? The city will get the grass they want and you'll retain the original flagstone, albeit in slightly different form. I'm really sorry :(

meryl rose said...

First off, I will put a hit out on that city employee for you ;)

Chris suggested maybe having it ground down just at that transition? Maybe do a TINY patch of concrete to level out the tiny high spot of the flagstone to the lower spot of the sidewalk? I know it's not the prettiest, but maybe it's not as expensive (because it's only a small area), and then you wouldn't have to break up all the original flagstone?

Seriously, those guys are some straight up assholes.

Alissa said...

That really stinks! Why does it seem like the government is raising taxes while decreasing your property value and reducing the quality/frequency of services your taxes are supposed to cover? I guess that's because it is. It's so wrong.

Regarding the sidewalk...I don't know anything about concrete, but it looks to me like its the sidewalk that's sunken over time (as seen by the crack in the concrete), not the sidewalk moving (and its likely been there a lot longer). Why should the straight, properly installed item be changed to accommodate the sunken, possibly improperly installed one? I think you should try to fight it; some people actually beat city hall. And have them remove the spray paint on the flagstone while you're at it ;) Good luck!

Kerry said...

OMG! I would be losing it... about everything. What a pain in the butt. I read through the other comments, and I'm not too sure what else to suggest. I know that dealing with cities can be an absolute nightmare. The price we pay for being homeowners - ugh!!

(p.s. MAN! I thought our property taxes were high!!)

domestiphobia said...

Um... call me crazy, but to me it looks like the sidewalk is what's not level - especially in that last photo. So I think YOU need to send a letter to THEM about the tripping hazard their crappy, unkempt sidewalk is causing in front of your lovely, original flagstone walkway. And maybe get a lawyer's letterhead. ;)

G said...

absolutely outrageous!!!! if you have any lawyers in the family, definitely try going with their letterhead and show this last picture where the concrete sidewalk is clearly what has sunken below the level line of the flagstone, not the other way around. That crack in the sidewalk gives it away. Plus you could put a level on your flagstone and compare it to one on the sidewalk to show fault. AND GET THEM TO REMOVE THAT SPRAYPAINT!! OUTRAGEOUS, I SAY!!!!

A Pearl In The Making said...

So not cool. I'm sorry you are frustrated. I definitely second the attorney idea.

Maybe submit a "good question" to apartment therapy. Many times people have some really helpful hints.

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/categories/good_questions

Sharon@Sharon at Home said...

OMG ... I have no idea what to do but I feel your pain.

Katie said...

i agree with others above - it looks like the sidewalk is what is no longer level. did they tell you what their definition of "level" is? does it need to be perfect or just within a certain tolerance?

sorry to hear about all of your troubles! i was worried about our city when we first bought our house - the city inspector didn't do the house inspection at first because they "didn't feel like doing stairs" that day... so we had to delay our closing, super. keep in mind we have a normal 2 story house, it's not like there are a crazy amount of stairs. luckily things seemed to have improved for us, i hope they do for you too!

Deb said...

Your property taxes are crazy high - that's more than what I pay in suburban DC for an acre and 3500 sf - Good gravy! I agree with the suggestions to try and ground it down and patch it up. I would hate to see the whole thing go but if you fix the "tripping hazard" wouldn't that be sufficient? And yeah - if the sidewalk (which is the city's problem) hadn't sunk - you wouldn't have this issue! You could always fight it and request that they fix their sidewalk to bring it up to your walkway - that was there first wasn't it? Stuff like this pisses me off....

Good luck whichever way you go!

carrie said...

I'm fighting with my city too. Actually been to court 3 or 4 times and am in the processing of abating the issues they have with my home. Costs me a morning of work every time. And abating is costing me a metric shit-ton of dough. Feel your pain.

A lot of people (not me!) in NJ pay $10-12,000/year in property taxes. So. It could be worse...

I'd probably raise the existing sidewalk up to meet the original flagstone path. Jack-hammering that out and repouring will be annoying but it wouldn't eff with the original stuff.

barksandbaking said...

I agree with several of the earlier commenters - draft a letter (with photos) about how the sidewalk is the issue, not your path, and then take it to a lawyer. I even if it's not someone you know, if the letter is already written and all they have to do is put it on letterhead and get the city's response, any charge should be minimal.

If that doesn't work, I think taking out just the last stone or two and grading the path so that it meets up with the sidewalk would be a good option, and one that you could potentially do yourself with some sand, the old stones, and some kind of cement/grout.

Good luck!

Megan said...

Got the same pretty green spray paint and the same friendly letter. Err...I had so much extra money laying around anyways. Our are in our driveway apron--not even the sidewalk.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

Have that part of the sidewalk mudjacked and call it done.

Sara @ Russet Street Reno said...

You guys are so sweet! Unfortunately the sidewalk is perfectly level, it is our walkway that is too high. I'm also not sure if the tree roots are pushing it up, so we shall see.

Red Telly said...

I would also suggest having the edges of the flagstone ground. Our city recently contracted to have that done on some of the uneven sidewalks in my neighborhood. It worked out really well. Unfortunately I have one of the only brick sidewalks left in our neighborhood and boulevard tree roots are causing issues. I know it's only a matter of time before the city comes in and rips out the sidewalk and probably the trees as well, which provide the only shade on our house from the hot afternoon sun in summer. It makes me ill to even think of it.

Kim @ NewlyWoodwards said...

This infuriates me for you. The type of crap that city governments pull on homeowners enrages me. Our city cut down a tree at our rental property and left it on the boulevard for 4 MONTHS. I called weekly and never got a return phone call. Then, one day it was gone. But if I had done that? I'd have been told to remove it. Just irks me that they can do whatever they want with no reprucussions. Not to mention they are only available to contact when NORMAL PEOPLE ARE WORKING. Our city services shut down at 4 p.m. and most inspections have to happen before 3 p.m. Are you flippin' kidding me?

I have no suggestions for your sidewalk, but this just irritates the living hell out of me. I hope you can figure it out.

KellyMellyBoBellyBananaFanna said...

ugh. that blows. i'm sorry.

i don't have a chance to read all of the other comments right now, so i'm sorry if someone else suggested it, but you should be able to shave or grind down that edge. (i've seen it done around here.)

hang in there. hope the little guy is well.

Kristen said...

$4600 for property taxes actually makes me jealous! I pay more than triple that in NJ and our towns ass backwards-ness sounds similar to yours so I can sympathize!

Tiffany Larkin said...

My dad had a similar situation. Of course the city was no help so he contacted the local news. The news did a segment and of course it was fixed the next day. Good luck.

Keeley said...

What can they do to you if you refuse to fix it? Put a lien on your home? I say contact the local media and/or an attorney friend. There are plenty of homeowners who simply don't have the cash to do these types of repairs and I'm sure they're not sitting in jail.

When cities/towns/states start losing money or having their budgets cut, they will nitpick on little things like this. I work in the state with the highest property taxes in the country (on average). Many of my coworkers are paying more than $10k/year.

I live in a community where waste removal is privatized, so we get to shop around for the best deal. I'm currently paying $23/month for trash and recycling and maybe I should quit complaining... at least you get what you pay for!

Emily CarriUsHome said...

I'd be flipping out. I live in SE Wisconsin too and it seems like our taxes keep going up, assessments go down and the services provided by the city blow.

I'd go along with what others seem to be saying and either grind down that raised section or break apart the stone and take out the dirt to lower it.

We have a similar issue with our path way with it being not very level, although the city isn't after us yet, but we've contemplated doing the same!

Good luck!

Oona Johnson said...

Wow. That is insanely frustrating! I would be so upset. What did you guys end up doing?

Deni said...

Why not rip out a mere few inches of flagstone and plant grass in the offending area :)?