The Professionals

          Let’s assume you have filed an application with the Pinelands Commission to build your house on a piece of land.  Within thirty days of receiving the application, the Commission should respond with a letter that fully outlines what needs to be done to complete your application.  

          This might be the first time you become aware of the fact that Pine Barrens Treefrogs and Red-headed Woodpeckers are classified as threatened or endangered (T&E) animal species.  There is a list of 43 such animal species in the Pinelands area of this state.  This may also be the first time that you realize mistletoe is not some fictional Christmas plant.  It is also protected.  And it might be on or near your property.

          Where does one find a bird, frog or mistletoe expert?  Who is going to decode what the Pinelands Commission is demanding in their review letter?  Commission staff members are prohibited from giving you the names of and certainly referring such experts.  That would be a conflict.

          Many applications, just to build a single house, will require the assistance of a land surveyor, wetlands specialist, biologist and a lawyer.  When you make it through the Pinelands process, you might also need a licensed engineer to design the septic and well systems.

          Most engineering and law firms are geared up (and strongly prefer) to work for big housing developers, Dunkin’ Donuts and Walmart.  They know what they are doing, but they have no concept of budget or scale.  These professionals bring the entire artillery, and they kill you on fees.

          On the other hand, most small shops just do not have a clue.  Some of these surveyors, engineers and attorneys might have some experience with the Pinelands Commission, but – truth be told – they are feeling their way around in the dark.  These guys eventually get the job done, but it takes longer.  Hopefully, these professionals are not billing you for the learning curve.

          Securing a Certificate of Filing from the Pinelands Commission, which is not an approval (more like a green light to move onto local approvals), almost requires a person in charge.  Like a general contractor overseeing the framer, plumber and electrician building a house, this process needs someone to lead.

          Even the best managers in their respective fields will find managing biologists, wetlands scientists and engineers a challenge.  They are brainy and idiosyncratic.  In a different way, lawyers can be difficult as well.  With some of them, egos and over-confidence will be a problem.