On A Mission

I missed my weekly column this past week because, well I hadn’t interviewed anyone. Because I was disenchanted. Because I was restless. Because I needed to take an action.

Now, yon ladies and gems, I have a mission. Wish me luck.

Here’s the background, please forgive me to those who bore, this story has been in my posts several times. But I can’t get over the fact that something is terribly wrong in Sussex County Delaware. Right-SUSSEX COUNTY-not Newcastle or Kent.-SUSSEX.

Although, I dunno, could also be the northern counties. For I have never had the Planning and Zoning Inspector of those counties send me a letter vowing to tear my fence on my private property by a certain date. But Dean Pettyjohn, Planning and Zoning Inspector of Sussex County sent me such a letter and it was not a threat. He told me to tear it down or his constable will.

Is this not the United States of America? I am found guilty without a single input? This bureaucrat in Sussex County gets to authorize someone to come in and tear down my private property and I get no plea, no chance to defend?

This happened to me right after I was recently widowed and my emotions were a wreck. I did manage to stop Emperor Pettyjohn from tearing down my fence but I had to write letters, plead to my Sussex councilperson, in short do the things that some other recently widowed and confused woman might not have the power or wherewithal to do.

I want to make sure this never happens to another Sussex Countian. This is EXACTLY the sort of thing our county council should be dealing with.

It is unconstitutional, not to be dramatic a bout it.

Seems the fine folks behind me were having their homes built in a new community and hey, they have a right to live here. Perhaps I would have evened welcomed them had they not had their builder send me a letter to please move my fence.

Well welcome to you fine folks living behind me too.

I got all nuts because all I’ve been doing for these last ten years in Sussex County is living peaceably on my little fairly purchased home on a modest piece of land. I’ve been law-abiding and cared for my lot tenderly. My part of this earth, like yon readers I’m sure, is paradise to me.

Also I have a shed and my WELL HEAD the four feet from my fence line these fine folk behind said was theirs, please get off of my land.

This was no small matter here, folk. Just like that, boom these people get a land survey that says my fence is on their land. For the last ten years I’ve had a survey in my possession, gained when I purchased my house. This proper survey-meaning it’s signed and sealed or whatever surveys have to be-says my fence is properly placed.

So the surveys disputed each other, so okay, there’s ways to deal with this sort of thing. One way NOT to do it is to send an impersonal letter to your new neighbors telling them to tear down their fence, drill a new well, lose your dog for no containment.

To me this is the apex of what America is about, your house, your land, your property. Indeed our federal income tax code encourages home ownership in that we are allowed to deduct the interest on our mortgages and home-based lines of credit. Home owners make good citizens, that’s the logic.

So why did Sussex county condemn me to hell when this builder showed Dean Pettyjohn his client’s survey and Pettyjohn, boom, without questioning me, without allowing me to plea, condemn my property without a thought?

Man, I consider this serious stuff. This guy isn’t even ELECTED and he’s got amazing power!

Understand that it’s not Pettyjohn, I don’t know the man, this is not personal. It’s this Emperor in Sussex County who is titled Planning and Zoning Inspector.

I know this position has job duties and perhaps there are times that the constable has to tear down fences.

I think the Sussex County council needs to pass a law, however this is done, delineating the proper order of handling property disputes. I want it in writing, I want bureaucrats like the Zoning Inspector prevented from tearing down your property without you having a single say in the matter.

No it’s not good enough that I managed to get Pettyjohn to back down on his command because, well not that nobody would admit it, but disputed surveys should be handled by the courts, not by county bureaucrats.

Again, how this was handled was unconstitutional and nothing less.

So I’m on a mission. I don’t want any money. I don’t even necessarily want any help. I am going to be a good citizen and do whatever it takes to get how property disputes should be handled on paper and as guideline for zealous Zoning Inspectors wanting to please builder buddies.

That’s my mission and wish me luck. I plan to use the power of my words as much as possible. As a swordsman sheaths his weapon, so in my brain are the words to get my point across.

I will attend Sussex County meetings, I will learn how it all works, I will write letters to the editor, I will hound the Sussex county GOP to help me get this done.

On this matter, I interviewed the Sussex County GOP head of Public Relations, Duke Brooks and will put up my Sunday column “Read It and Weep” this coming Sunday.

Wish me luck. You may make fun of me, you may call me names, you may think I am obsessed, but I will never ever forget how worthless that whole thing made me feel that someone could move behind me and demand to tear my life apart in terms of property, and my county bureaucrats, in the county where I’d been nothing but a peaceful, indeed productive, citizen, turned on me like a vicious beast.

I do, as friends have told me, have a tendency at times to get on a horse and tilt at windmills.

Well, yes.

But I’ve won a lot of times too.

This time I will read the comments as I’d love to look for your ideas/input/ even brickbats.

Wish me luck.

==============

Goodness I left off one important piece of information regarding this quest.  I intend to document my journey in getting this done, how the council treats me, how the bureaucrats react.  Indeed I am going to rock the Circle-I know all the best parking spots.

Instead of interviewing local Sussex County folk, I intend to write about how they react in real life.  As for how I can be fair in this process, well I can’t.  I’m a Blogger.  I have opinions.  But those written about can certainly respond, even put up defensive posts of their own if editor Anderson so allows.

Best I can promise is that I’ll try to be as fair as possible but buyer/reader beware.

I ought to charge you people for this.

12 thoughts on “On A Mission

  1. Pat, if you PLUS (plus) your previous neighbors have claimed that property line for 20 years, you own all that land.

    It’s called “adverse possession” which is similar to a statute of limitations.

    In Delaware the period of time for adverse possession is twenty (20) years. Delaware Code §10-7901, 7902.

    But don’t be confused: Let’s say that you had that particular fence there for 10 years. But the previous owner of your house had a different fence there for 7 years, and the owner before that had a fence on that line for 5 years.

    That’s a total of 22 years. The land up to the fence now belongs to you.

    But you may have to file something like an action to “quiet title” to establish that you are the owner of all of that land.

  2. My understanding from previous posts was that Pat went back to the county with the old survey, and this was all sorted out already.

    Isn’t that the situation?

    It seems what happened was that the builder went to the county with a new survey, the county issued a letter, but when she got back to them with the old survey, then this was sorted out.

    If that’s the way things are, then continuing to be sore over the initial letter seems a bit unfair to someone who sent it on the best information they had at the time, and was willing to change their position in light of additional information. I just don’t see the horror in all of that.

    Is Pat just being a sore winner, or is there still an active dispute going on?

  3. Okay nitpicker, and you are certainly that.

    First, let me say that the entirety of your comment is correct. Every word. Except for that bit about the sore winner but this is how nitpickers speak.

    No. Even if someone were to say to me that Pettyjohn made a mistake, no….I don’t want Pettyjohn punished. This isn’t about him.

    I want the county council to argue and debate a list of procedures that need to be taken when property lines are in dispute. I don’t want some poor widow to have a bunch of jackals jumping all over her with no idea what hit her (or him, in the case of a widower).

    Not that the marital status matters, but I did get the advantage of such an event and how scary it can be.

    I think Pettyjohn’s letter to me should have said:
    ===================
    Dear Mrs. Fish,

    We have received an indication that your property lines are in dispute. Be advised that you have the following options to help resolve this dispute:

    -you may call the Planning and Zoning Inspector at 555-5555 to arrange either a phone review or set up an in-person meeting.

    -property disputes do not mean you are in the wrong or that you are in the right. You want to begin by providing me a copy of any land surveys you may have in your possession. This will eliminate a lot of concern.

    -should the county determine, by my review, that the dispute is valid, you will be notified in 30 days and will have a similar period to protest.

    This notice involved no threat of any action but is merely a notification of the Sussex County’s Department of Planning and Zoning that a case will be opened to investigate this land dispute.

    Many land disputes might involve a subsequent court case to decide such disputes. The Department of Planning and Zoning is not in the business of determining guilt unless lack of documentation allows it. In all cases all parties involved will be part of the decision process, whether it involves the Department of Planning and Zoning or, obviously, the Judicial system.

    Please feel free to contact me …… Failure to respond to this notice within the required time period will be construed as an allowance for the Depart…(yada) to determine the resolution of the property dispute.
    =================
    Yeah, I’ll write it for them.

    No it’s not about being a sore winner, nitpicker. It’s about one ordinary citizen who wants to participate in this country’s Democratic process, who suffered a grievous wound and is going to fight back.

    Lord they write laws taking away our guns though there’s millions already on the books. The sit and bloviate on boys using girls’ bathrooms and all kinds of nonsense.

    My story is real and a flagrant example of government/bureaucrat abuse.

    I’m going to fight back, I’m going to try and make it right. I will follow all laws, I will accept defeat.

    You can mock me and Nitpicker, as he always did, rose to the occasion. I think I will have a lot to say about how this all goes down but Nittie nittie my man, you just scroll on by.

  4. And yes, the fine, fine people of New Jersey, even though they were notified by the builder that Pettyjohn indicated that the county will take NO action on my lot….the fine folks sent me another nasty letter saying they didn’t care what the hell the county said, THEY ARE GOING TO SUE!

    But that’s ok. Taking me to court is fine, at least I got a judge looking me in the eye as he tells me to dig up my well, tear down my fence, destroy my shed. A judge and not some impersonal letter from same nameless and uncaring bureaucrat.

    Also, the guy on my left got himself a brand new survey, this is a guy been living next to me for past ten years, nasty guy. Now he claims the fence bordering our two properties is his, that my tree is “encroaching” on “his” fence, so yes, Nitpicker, my nightmare goes on and on.

    This county needs a plan to handle property disputes and may I point out that there are many, many new developments coming to Sussex county. It’s time for a public debate/intelligent discussion to handle these things.

    If you think not, that the petty bureaucrats should be deciding these things, well you would be stupid or named Nitpicker, take your choice.

  5. “This county needs a plan to handle property disputes”

    It’s called “court”. Property disputes are not something new. You have run-of-the-mill boundary line disputes of the kind that are decided by judges every day, using principles that, in some instances, predate the Magna Carta.

    There isn’t some administrative magic wand that anyone can wave to make perfectly ordinary boundary disputes disappear like magic.

    The problem, Jon, with adverse possession is that there are a lot of facts we don’t know about the creation of the lot, whether her lot was subdivided from another lot, and whether or not tacking may apply. But, absolutely, a brief consultation with a knowledgeable property attorney in her jurisdiction would probably do her a world of good, and inform her of numerous procedural options based upon the relevant circumstances.

  6. “If you think not, that the petty bureaucrats should be deciding these things”

    No, I think judges should be deciding these things. That’s what one of your neighbors said too.

  7. Below-between the dashed lines- is a quote from my comment above.
    =======================================
    the fine folks sent me another nasty letter saying they didn’t care what the hell the county said, THEY ARE GOING TO SUE!

    But that’s ok. Taking me to court is fine, at least I got a judge looking me in the eye as he tells me to dig up my well, tear down my fence, destroy my shed
    ==================
    Below the + signs, an out-of-content reply to the above comment from Nitpicker.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    No, I think judges should be deciding these things. That’s what one of your neighbors said too.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    First, note in my comment I was rapturous that my nasty new neighbors are going to take me to court. But Nitpicker takes it out of context and acts like these NJ jerks are paragons of justice.

    Come on Nittie, I’m done talking to you. I’m in the right here and I’m trying to right a wrong.

    I will ignore the naysayers like you from here on in.
    ======================

  8. I am going to consult with the best property attorney around these parts.

    This STILL will not address that such an awful thing can happen and I’m going to fight it.

    What I think happened, and Jon read closely but I think I’m right here…first, the guy who owned this property before me (and there was only ONE) owned a larger parcel of the land and he had it sub-divided. No, I don’t THINK that’s what happened, I KNOW that’s what happened.

    I know cause he told me.

    I don’t think there were any surveys done on this plot of land until MINE was done and mine was done only because the seller was sub-dividing, he HAD to have a survey done.

    My neighbor to right and to left did NOT have surveys done and neither did the genius’ buying these McMansions from New Jersey.

    Then some homeowner not even in EITHER community gets stick of tired of people tramping through his back lot and he puts up some kind of iron fence. I heard this second hand so take me with grain of salt.

    So the genius from New Jersey, about three of them dear Lord please make them stay in the state they messed up-all got upset cause the guy disgusted with trespassers had his fence some ten feet over the boundary lines of three people. so they all go out and get a survey done and the my neighbor of ten years on my left gets a survey done and now everybody’s beating on everybody and Dean Pettyjohn jumps right on in and says he’s tearing down everybody’s fence.

    That’s the story, honest, it’s almost sad how stupid these people are acting, INCLUDING THE PLANNING AND ZONING guy!

    The fellow who built the iron fence, I dunno, he didn’t want that to be HIS fence necessarily, he wanted to keep people from using his back yard as a short cut.

    THAT’s what started the whole thing.

    So here I am, the ONLY one around here what’s got a survey and frankly I think all the idiots hired surveyors and nobody checked to see if there were surveys already on file.

    Dean Pettyjohn did declare my one and only precious survey save me from the hoards as completely legitimate so go on, take me to court.

    I do not think a judge would send some court officer out, badaboom, to just tear down my fence and remove my shed or whatever as Pettyjohn threatened to do, again I was found GUILTY without a trial, by an UNELECTED bureaucrat.

    I know Nitpicker likes bureaucrats but they are the worse. They never get fired, they don’t worry about election, they can destroy your yard with no input from you or the laws.

    That’s the story and everyone around here is acting like assholes. Sometimes, including me.

    For I am ever the innocent here and I will not be bullied.

    That’s all this is is mean and nasty bullying.

  9. “That’s all this is is mean and nasty bullying.”

    You know what I have never seen from you in all of this? Any hint that you are capable of seeing this from anyone’s viewpoint but your own.

  10. Pat, I just noticed all the posts and I am sorry this happened to you. I thought that after I made some calls on your behalf that everything worked out fine. If there; is something I can do to help you I certainly will do it.

    Joan

  11. “First, note in my comment I was rapturous that my nasty new neighbors are going to take me to court. But Nitpicker takes it out of context and acts like these NJ jerks are paragons of justice.”

    No, I didn’t say they were anything of the sort. They have a view of the matter, and you have a view of the matter. Courts are where these things are sorted out. You seem to think that your neighbors should simply agree with you. Well, they don’t. So, you have two choices – you can be nasty and bitter about it, or you can go to court, get a decision one way or the other, and move on.

    “again I was found GUILTY without a trial, by an UNELECTED bureaucrat.”

    No, you weren’t found guilty of anything, and nothing happened to your fence and shed – NOTHING.

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