How did I come to have a 7ft long wooden penis in my front yard? Well, it’s a bit of a long story so grab a drink and strap in.

“Welcome to your twenties, baby.
I know you’re gonna do amazing”
-Spose

I suspect the story began sometime around 2012 or ‘13, it had been a couple years since i (mostly) finished building our house and was almost certainly broke and struggling. I scavenged some material and a few bucks to start building a shed to store my tools and things. Once it began to take shape it wasn’t long before I received a threatening letter in the mail from the town regarding my unpermitted little construction endeavor. Begrudgingly I handled it, got the permit, time went on.

This was a reflective period in my life, learning the tenets of libertarianism, the non aggression principle and how to communicate the ideas of freedom and the inherent threat of force any government program necessitates. Went to a protest or 2 you know, to really stick it to the man. Well, holy cow, a year went by already and my building permit is up for renewal, it’s due today and it’s 4:45 on a friday, a young and foolish me recognized it as an opportune moment to “stick it to the man” , extorting $35 dollars from me for what? Because there’s not enough siding on MY shed, on MY land that you don’t think I’m building fast enough?! I reached for the coin jar, dumped it out and counted $35 in random coins, stuffed it in a paper bag. Rushed to town hall, walked up to the building department secretary and plopped the sac of change on her desk, “it’s for the permit renewal” I said, she sighed, dumped it out, and started to sort the mess of coins. An assistant code enforcement officer came out and started to help her, they finish up the tally and she exclaims “it’s a nickel short”. I fumble in my pocket, pull out a nickel and flick it into the pile and peace out.

Yes, I realize that wasn’t very nice. The government was bombing weddings in yemen at the time. Life’s rough, is what it is.

Years flew by, shed slowly became more of a shop, shed 2.0 added a storage tunnel in the back, scavenged for very little money, making due, working with what I got, dreaming of shed 3.0. My woodworking skills started to take shape. 2016 was reaching the end of it’s tumultuous year. Gary forgot about Aleppo, nobody felt the Johnson. None of that mattered, I had a mission, I was making all the christmas gifts this year, everyone was getting some wood things. Except –

“Fell to my knees and I screamed in the front yard
Fireman running around like no one’s in charge
Sort of like when it rains, it pours
See the flames burst out of the door”
-prof

Morning of December 26th 2016,

the workshop burned to the ground in a violent explosion full morning that would darken the sky with thick, black smoke. The only gift that survived was a Black Cherry bowl I spun on the lathe for my grandparents. It was one of the most painful things i had ever experienced.

Took a few months but insurance came through. I spent a couple years sharing my dads garage. During this time I was building and growing a float therapy business, self learning structural engineering and working what seemed to be countless hours. But with any brief moment of time I had to spare I planned and iterated through designs for the new shop. Drafting and mathing and sketching and thinking.

Began to zero in on a good design, one that’s efficient, reasonably affordable, a bit eclectic, smart, modern and hits all the right notes. It would make clever use of a massive truss joist my parents had leftover from a project, would have a super steep pitch of 18/12 completely clad in steel and would be a reimagining of the pole barn. I drafted the plans, calculated tributary areas and dead loads and live loads, snow loads and slipperiness factors, checked slenderness ratios and reviewed span tables and double checked and triple checked until finally I felt confident. After just about a year,Finally I had a completed set of drawings. Submitted them to the architect, he did his thing, recalculated all the math, until he felt confident he could safely accept the liability bestowed upon him for stamping the drawings. Submitted them to the town, they said it’d be a couple weeks, right on time I get a call and a total, $165 or somewhere in that neighborhood. Big bills this time, I promise. Approved plans are returned without a single annotation, no notes, no issues or flags raised whatsoever.

Now the race was on, what I neglected to mention is that my parents had sold their house, and they were closing on it in 5 weeks. That means I had about 5 weeks to mostly single handedly build the shop and move all my tools and stuff from their garage. In the mad rush, i forgot to call the town about the footing inspection, keep in mind here, I still have a full time job, most of the work gets done at night or on the weekends, when the gov’t isn’t working.

During the construction I made a few changes that deviated from the original plan, from memory;

(Check it out for yourself, the PDF’s for the plans are below)

Original Drawings PDFRevised Drawings PDF

1) Front center column

I replaced a center support column in the front from a wood member to a 4×4 tube steel column w/ 3/16” walls.


2) Gable wall

On the front gable wall I installed a single 2×12 rafter instead of doubled rafters as drawn, the rest are all doubled, I just saw that doubling them up wasn’t necessary when they would have the support of the gable wall anyways.


3) Rear center column

The rear center support, as drawn was a 10” rough sawn oak column that extended from a concrete pier footing all the way up to the peak. Originally I had drawn a cast in “U” bracket to secure the base, but I instead welded a knife plate with thicker steel support still cast in place. Also as it turns out the oak tree I used to make this column had a bit of a curve to it, it didn’t reach the truss joist, so I welded up a very beefy steel bracket that attached to the oak tree column and made up the difference. It’s not something you see every day and likely has been a cause of some of the towns concern.


First Inspection

Structures up, slab is ready to pour. I call and schedule an inspection for the morning and schedule the cement delivery for noon. Well the inspector shows up half an hour late at 12:30 and the cement arrived 15 minutes early at 11:45…. So I waited a bit, but eventually I just had to get it started, can’t tell cement to wait.

They weren’t pleased when they arrived, but I passed the inspection. This was July 1st.

The inspectors ended up returning later in the day and went around and noted a few changes, they said i had to revise the drawings, I said no problem, I told them I just wanted to get the siding and roofing on ASAP, but all the framing will still be accessible from the inside for the framing inspection. They said no problem.

I got swamped and busy progress slowed to a crawl for the next few months and on October 4th the code enforcement came by to tell me there had been some noise complaints and oh by the way, here’s a stop work order. Great. Progress comes to a screeching halt.

It takes me some time to revise the plans and meet up with the architect and have him review everything and then pick up the new stamped set of plans.

Tuesday February 25th 2020,

I bring the revised plans to the town, and email photos of the footings (no response) fulfilling their request and satisfying the terms of the stop work order. Except the stop work order doesn’t get lifted. Now, they have to meet with the architect for some reason. This meeting was a meeting I was never invited to, though now I regret not going regardless. The meeting is scheduled for Monday March 9th. They went over a bunch of things with the architect and he was supposed to provide me a list of those new revisions. Remember this is about the time Corona season is picking up steam in NY, well the architect works for the state, his office was tasked by governor Cuomo to find suitable locations for temporary hospitals. Needless to say, he was a bit preoccupied trying to find where to put the 100 million beds that Cuomo wanted (relax, I’m exaggerating, it’s cool, so did he).

March 17th I email Mark Mykins the “boss” of code enforcement, trying to figure out what I need to do to proceed as I hadn’t heard back from the architect. I conclude my message asking for a time we could meet to discuss and conclude with “Seeking a quick and peaceful resolution to this matter. “

No response

March 24th I resend the email under the assumption that he may not have received the previous email.

I get a response, saying we can’t meet because of Covid-19 lock downs, threatening a revocation of the permit and court proceedings to have the structure removed. I’m told an assistant, Marcus, is going to provide me a list of all the issues identified so I can rectify them.

I wait patiently.

On april 19th, randomly on a sunday a black unmarked truck pulls up to my driveway and calls me over. It’s Marcus, he proceeds to tell me his boss instructed him to secretly videotape me allegedly violating the noise ordinance after 9. He tells me he emailed me the aforementioned list. I search through my email, no record of such a list, I ask him to send it again.

His response “You should be receiving a revised list my mail.” (typo included)

April 20th I email the 3rd code enforcement officer, John, seeking any possibility of reaching some agreement.

No response.

April 24th, my birthday, I receive a letter outlining a slew of alleged violations, some brand new ones, some entirely false and fabricated. My building permit was now revoked.

Big gulp.

April 27th, I swallow my pride and write one more email to Mark, the head of code enforcement, straight up begging and pleading for some guidance or avenue to resolve this and just let me finish my workshop.

No response.

How did I come to have a 7ft long wooden penis in my front yard? Well, it’s a bit of a long story so grab a drink and strap in.

“Welcome to your twenties, baby.
I know you’re gonna do amazing”
-Spose

I suspect the story began sometime around 2012 or ‘13, it had been a couple years since i (mostly) finished building our house and was almost certainly broke and struggling. I scavenged some material and a few bucks to start building a shed to store my tools and things. Once it began to take shape it wasn’t long before I received a threatening letter in the mail from the town regarding my unpermitted little construction endeavor. Begrudgingly I handled it, got the permit, time went on.

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