September 1, 2010

County courthouse adventure


Those of you who know me know that I’m not always the best at dealing with bureaucratic processes. Well, there are a lot of things I’m not good at dealing with (the press comes to mind), but I’m particularly bad with bureaucracy. I don’t know if it’s the engineer in me demanding efficiency, or my inability to follow rules, or impatience when it comes to details. Whatever the case, I’m just not good at this stuff.

I got a call the other week regarding our building permit for 7 Holyoke. You may remember we had to file for a variance with the Board of Zoning Approval (BZA) back at the beginning of this process. “Fast food establishments” are not allowed in Cambridge without a variance. That was a long process, but with some help we navigated it.

(Gory details follow)

We apparently there was a signature on the BZA approval that I needed before our building permit could be reviewed. I was surprised, and it took me the better part of the day, and a visit to the county court house to sort the situation out. Get this: we were issued a letter a couple weeks after the hearing the confirmed the decision: an approval for the variance. The letter had instructions that I was to wait 20 days, then return with my letter to the City Clerk to file the decision. I did that. Then (I missed this part) I was supposed to file this decision with the Registry of Deeds, which is at the county court house. So why on earth would you set up a system that requires (1) that the applicant (me) comes back in person after 20 days? To what end? And, after that, why should I hoof over to the county court house? Couldn’t those things be handled by the city much more effectively? I don’t know if it’s because “this is they way it’s always been done” – basically nobody has tried to improve the situation. Or whether it’s because each agency wants its own check (oh yes, there is a check associated with each of these errands).

I just tell myself this is an adventure. I’d never been to the county courthouse before, have you?

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