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  1. #1

    Default Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    Snohomish County, Washington

    I am the owner of a housing development and have had endless problems with the local water authority, which oversees water and sewer installs.

    Early in the project I asked a number of technical questions of the authority's manager on their requirements, because I was anxious to do it right. When an inspector was assigned I asked similar questions but got different answers. I expressed concerns about this conflicting advice... and ever since have had extreme difficulty in getting inspections passed, and requirements have been made which are well beyond those required of others, judging from responses by underground utilities contractors I know.

    Well so I just spent the money to comply and didn't complain. Until my inspector came up with changes to the plans which are considerably different from those approved by the water authority's own State-licensed engineer. (a PE) This brought my multi-million dollar project to a standstill, as not only do these new requirements conflict with approved plans, but render the water system unmaintainable. I realize that this is hard to believe, but it happened. I have never said a cross word, questioned anyone's authority, nor instigated such hyperbolic responses in any other way. They certainly would have brought it up during this process if I had.

    At this point I escalated to the inspector's, manager's, boss. (It was made clear to me by the inspector that his manager was putting intense pressure on him to stymie me) This boss visited my site with the inspector, and proposed a solution to the (fake) problem which I accepted. But afterward the inspector then made a requirement which rendered the water system again unmaintainable. I appealed again to the boss but got no response.

    Stuck, at this point I filed a Notice of Claim with the water authority, asking for damages for costs imposed on me over and above the normal course of business (such requirements not being a part of the approved plans) and for a mandate from the General Manager (the boss' boss) that his subordinates stick to their own licensed engineer's approved plans. I gave them a deadline of this past Monday, but understanding the holidays will allow this week for a response. Nothing so far.

    Assuming that I am about to file suit, I will ask for mandamus that the authority revert to the plans approved by their own engineer, for those damages, for punitive damages (as the manager has a reputation far and wide for being 'impossible'),and for lost opportunity and other costs. I'll also file a complaint with the State licensing authority that my inspector is practicing engineering without a license.

    I am happy to provide more details, and am looking for constructive suggestions on how I can structure the lawsuit for best effect.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    I think this issue is well beyond the scope of asking questions on a forum and you need a good construction litagator to rectify this.

    Duh on my part, posting HX

    He was on SSI two years ago, and under arrest because he didn't know that a fence meant "keep out" when he after-hours toured a prospective employers job site.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    I'll bite, though I may regret it...

    IF you have plans approved, and stamped, by the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) then those are the drawings are the legal document that define how a project is to be built.

    The AHJ, which may not be the water dept, is really the final say and mixing the utilities/water and building/development departments together won't get you very far.

    Inspectors cannot tell you how to build something, that would present a conflict of interest. The plan review process, which you should've already been through if you're building, is where these issues are solved.

    SO, in WA, the DWGs to be approved have to be stamped and approved by the designed PE AND have to be approved by the AHJ.
    "Where do those stairs go?"
    "They go up!"

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    Everyone does a plan review, so the OP would have recieved reviewed plans from the the water district, sewer, land use, building, surface water, electrical, plumbing and probably a few others.

    So the inspector is there to make sure the parcel(s) are built as per plan, as well as code. But I'm sure you're well aware of that.

    It's actually rather rare for things to come to a screeching halt "out of the blue" if the prints have been fully through the process. Field work may uncover some existing conditions or elevations not foreseen or other problems. But I bet there is more to the story than we are aware.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    Quote Quoting MaltbyMark
    View Post
    Everyone does a plan review, so the OP would have recieved reviewed plans from the the water district, sewer, land use, building, surface water, electrical, plumbing and probably a few others.

    So the inspector is there to make sure the parcel(s) are built as per plan, as well as code. But I'm sure you're well aware of that.

    It's actually rather rare for things to come to a screeching halt "out of the blue" if the prints have been fully through the process. Field work may uncover some existing conditions or elevations not foreseen or other problems. But I bet there is more to the story than we are aware.
    I agree. While there are particular jurisdictions in WA that can be difficult to work with (Seattle) it would be extremely unusual for what the Op describes to have happened if the proper plan review process had been adhered to. I can't help but wonder if someone tried some construction sleight-of-hand and got caught.
    "Where do those stairs go?"
    "They go up!"

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    I've never had a problem with Seattle once I had stamped plans in hand. My job never involved procuring the plans or the development end of things.

    The OP did have a problem two years ago when he got caught touring a prospective employers job site after hours and after entering thru a hole in the fence. He couldn't really wrap his mind around that he was in fact tresspassing, so his reality may differ from the real world reality.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    Quote Quoting quantumn
    View Post
    Snohomish County, Washington

    I am the owner of a housing development and have had endless problems with the local water authority, which oversees water and sewer installs.

    Early in the project I asked a number of technical questions of the authority's manager on their requirements, because I was anxious to do it right. When an inspector was assigned I asked similar questions but got different answers. I expressed concerns about this conflicting advice... and ever since have had extreme difficulty in getting inspections passed, and requirements have been made which are well beyond those required of others, judging from responses by underground utilities contractors I know.

    Well so I just spent the money to comply and didn't complain. Until my inspector came up with changes to the plans which are considerably different from those approved by the water authority's own State-licensed engineer. (a PE) This brought my multi-million dollar project to a standstill, as not only do these new requirements conflict with approved plans, but render the water system unmaintainable. I realize that this is hard to believe, but it happened. I have never said a cross word, questioned anyone's authority, nor instigated such hyperbolic responses in any other way. They certainly would have brought it up during this process if I had.

    At this point I escalated to the inspector's, manager's, boss. (It was made clear to me by the inspector that his manager was putting intense pressure on him to stymie me) This boss visited my site with the inspector, and proposed a solution to the (fake) problem which I accepted. But afterward the inspector then made a requirement which rendered the water system again unmaintainable. I appealed again to the boss but got no response.

    Stuck, at this point I filed a Notice of Claim with the water authority, asking for damages for costs imposed on me over and above the normal course of business (such requirements not being a part of the approved plans) and for a mandate from the General Manager (the boss' boss) that his subordinates stick to their own licensed engineer's approved plans. I gave them a deadline of this past Monday, but understanding the holidays will allow this week for a response. Nothing so far.

    Assuming that I am about to file suit, I will ask for mandamus that the authority revert to the plans approved by their own engineer, for those damages, for punitive damages (as the manager has a reputation far and wide for being 'impossible'),and for lost opportunity and other costs. I'll also file a complaint with the State licensing authority that my inspector is practicing engineering without a license.

    I am happy to provide more details, and am looking for constructive suggestions on how I can structure the lawsuit for best effect.
    You construct the law suit that the authority is being arbitrary and capricious in their enforcement of the process of approval. You submited plans that where approved and then the authority changes the requirements after the fact of approval.

    I suspect that other posters don't know what a utility authority formed by law is. It is not the water company or the sewer company of a municipality. Assuming you are speaking of an authority formed by law.

    A utility authority is a separate government entity separate from the city, municipality, or town that can control themselves. They own sewer treatment plants and waterworks, or something else. They are usual regional in nature serving multiple communities or regions. They are little government onto their own with the power to sell bonds, set user rates, and make regulations.

    https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.a....106&full=true

    I would suspect that you are caught up in a political or developmental battle.

    I know this because I served as a commissioner on an authority for over ten years.

    Hopefully, you have a good attorney.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    Quote Quoting Mark47n
    View Post
    I'll bite, though I may regret it...

    IF you have plans approved, and stamped, by the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) then those are the drawings are the legal document that define how a project is to be built.

    The AHJ, which may not be the water dept, is really the final say and mixing the utilities/water and building/development departments together won't get you very far.

    Inspectors cannot tell you how to build something, that would present a conflict of interest. The plan review process, which you should've already been through if you're building, is where these issues are solved.

    SO, in WA, the DWGs to be approved have to be stamped and approved by the designed PE AND have to be approved by the AHJ.
    That's what I thought, and that is the basis of my Notice of Claim. Yes the AHJ is the water authority, which is under franchise from Snohomish County.

    Quote Quoting MaltbyMark
    View Post
    Everyone does a plan review, so the OP would have recieved reviewed plans from the the water district, sewer, land use, building, surface water, electrical, plumbing and probably a few others.

    So the inspector is there to make sure the parcel(s) are built as per plan, as well as code. But I'm sure you're well aware of that.

    It's actually rather rare for things to come to a screeching halt "out of the blue" if the prints have been fully through the process. Field work may uncover some existing conditions or elevations not foreseen or other problems. But I bet there is more to the story than we are aware.
    Nothing in field work was discovered extraordinary to the approved plans. Indeed I have the plans approved by the water authority.

    It is a preposterous situation, and as I say, the inspector is under tremendous pressure from his boss to stymie me. I'm not saying more as it could compromise my position. Duh yes, this high school graduate inspector is countermanding the authority's own PE. (who has now moved on, for very good reasons) This seems to be a violation of State licensing laws and I will press that. I've given the relevant facts and am just looking for constructive input on the way forward.

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    You construct the law suit that the authority is being arbitrary and capricious in their enforcement of the process of approval. You submited plans that where approved and then the authority changes the requirements after the fact of approval.

    I suspect that other posters don't know what a utility authority formed by law is. It is not the water company or the sewer company of a municipality. Assuming you are speaking of an authority formed by law.

    A utility authority is a separate government entity separate from the city, municipality, or town that can control themselves. They own sewer treatment plants and waterworks, or something else. They are usual regional in nature serving multiple communities or regions. They are little government onto their own with the power to sell bonds, set user rates, and make regulations.

    https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.a....106&full=true

    I would suspect that you are caught up in a political or developmental battle.

    I know this because I served as a commissioner on an authority for over ten years.

    Hopefully, you have a good attorney.
    Yes this is in fact an authority, franchised by the County for ten years. I am not complaining about the plans approval process, that was done long ago, by their own PE, and I'd agreed to his findings. The problem is with the Manager pressuring the Inspector, who has now made impossible requirements on bases outside the plans, Code, and his authority. It is a problem which I haven't experienced as a developer since 1992.

    And oh, Mark and Mark, I have had my own problems over the years, so, what? {der} In trying to weaponize this, you have not admitted, or are hiding your own, or else you are not doing anything substantive. If I were trying a "sleight-of-hand" would I come here for input? So what are you trying to say? That I have no right to be doing what I do? That I have no right to ask for constructive advice, which I have never gotten here to this point? (except budwad's reasoned and experienced input) Is this 4th grade all over again? Is it still Amateur Hour? Tell me now boy.

    Can the adults please consider ideas for a way forward?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    You got approval for your plane and now you are being stonewalled. It's time to hand it over to your attorney and file a lawsuit.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Municipal Water District Blocks Housing Project, Contravenes Own Engineer

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    You got approval for your plans and now you are being stonewalled. It's time to hand it over to your attorney and file a lawsuit.
    Agree. I sent the Notice of Claim with the proper language (required by their Code) on 23 December, with a deadline of this past Monday. The same day the GM acknowledged receipt by email (and copied their law firm) and let me know that due to vacations and holidays he may not be able to respond that week. So Monday came and went, but I understand there is some inertia with larger organizations. Today I sent the GM an email asking whether I'll hear from them 'this week', effectively giving them this week. No response yet.

    So I guess Friday I'll start drafting my suit. Has to be in Superior Court since I'll be asking for a writ of mandamus. I'll ask for damages for things required by the inspector extraneous to the approved plans, as well as punitive damages (due to the Manager's well-known behavior) and lost opportunity costs (which I didn't request in the Claim). I'll be doing this pro se.

    Can't attach docs here so I can't provide the (redacted) Notice of Claim, but it explains the situation well and I'll base the Complaint on it.

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