The Nanny State: Coming to a driveway near you


My driveway rocks.

It started with the rocks.

After living in San Francisco for 20 years, and putting up with 20 summers of bone-chilling fog, my wife and I decided to move 50 miles north, where we had bought a small piece of undeveloped land in Sonoma County, and piece by piece, built a horse farm on top of an old silage field.

In the process, we spent countless hours obtaining building permits for almost every fence, gate, driveway, and barn, screw, and nail from PRMD. Its formal name is Sonoma County Resource and Permit Department.  Informally, it is known as “those bastards from the county.”

To keep boarders with big horse trailers from driving in the mud, we lined our entrance way with a few 3-foot tall, thousand-pound- rocks. One day, an inspector from PRMD paid us a visit and expressed the opinion that our rocks were too close to the roadway. I asked how far they should be, and his answer was, “I don’t know, but these are too close.”

When I asked how he knew my rocks were too close when he had no idea what the right distance was, he informed me that it was my responsibility to visit PRMD and find out what the law specified for my particular avenue. I argued that this was like being pulled over for speeding by a cop who then told me he had no idea what the speed limit was for this particular stretch of road, only to have him direct me to court so that I could research the speed limit, in order to tell the authorities how they should discipline me.

This logic, like most logic, was lost on those bastards.

Worse, when I was first paving this same driveway, I was required to post a $500 “Road Encroachment Bond.” After the encroachment was inspected, I would then receive my $500 back.

A while later, I visited PRMD on another subject, and decided to make the trip partly worthwhile by asking for my $500 refund. After 15 minutes of staring at the thinning skull of a nervous little man with watery eyes as he pecked at his terminal, he looked up and said he had news I might not like.

My inspection window for the encroachment had expired several months before. In order to have my driveway inspected, I needed to apply for an extension. This of course, involved a fee. In this case, it cost me $105 in order to obtain the privilege of having my $500 deposit returned.

I’m just one man with one driveway. I could go on for days about the insults that have been imposed once I let PRMD get their two left feet deeper onto my land. There must be about 220 million American adults who find themselves in the same pickle.

So what’s the point of this blog? Is it about the blatant waste of money that goes on at the county and city level? Or is it about the wholesale erosion of individual liberties by these dim bulbs that makes the intrusiveness of the Federal Government look minor?  It’s about both, and I invite you to decide which is worse.

© 2011 Greg Karraker

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