Friday, January 24, 2014

How Much Space Do You Need, Anyway?

There’s been a lot of controversy the past couple of months in my region about FEMA, The NSA, Agenda21, HUD grants and the power of the local planning boards. Specifically the questions echo the same theme; on what authority do these organizations have to do what they do? Nobody can argue on behalf of the NSA keeping tabs of our emails and cell phone conversations, it’s inexcusable, illegal and is a clear violation of the constitution. If you think it’s OK because you have nothing to hide, you’ll change your mind when it’s your driveway their parked in looking to ask you questions.

The other organizations I’ve mentioned are controversial due to their claims to authority. The local planning boards, “Agenda21” and HUD; specifically what power do they wield in deciding who gets to build what and do what they please when they’re done. For freelance graphic designers like my self and small business owners who are working out of their houses there are specific restrictions that are imposed by the local, state and federal governments.

First is the size of our workspaces. I was told that only 25 percent of my house can be used to run my business – but that’s only via the town rules or ordinances. I can only allocate one quarter of our home to “The Eric Fisk Graphic Design House.” More to the point, “The Eric Fisk Graphic Design House” can only be one room on one floor and maybe (if I behave myself?) some square footage in my basement.

How do we even begin to measure this space? Are we talking square floor space, or are we talking cubic square feet?

What if I create this beautiful poster and my wife falls in love with it, has it framed and then hangs it on the wall of our stair case? Does that count as some of my work space? Does it depend on who hangs it, or does it count because I created it for work?

Sometimes I have to use the glass top table that used to be in our dining room that’s now in the basement. I use that space to cut back core black matte board for finished projects – does that count as my 25%? When does it count if it does? I also like to sit in the big comfy chair and catch up on emails or read the trade magazines while the rest of my family is doing something else like watching TV. How much of that chair counts towards my space? If we get a matching ottoman, does that count when I put my feet up on it?

The town of Rindge has the ‘right’ to tell me how much of my house I can and can’t use to run my graphic design business. Do I get credit for only using 24%? What’s the penalty if I use twenty-five and a half percent. Or… heaven help me if I notch it up to TWENTY-SIX percent!

What if this room or space isn’t always used for my Graphic Design business? There are times when my wife’s parents and family members come over and just drop stuff off – without my permission – on the floor of my office when they come to visit. There are also times when my wife comes through the door at the end of the night and she leaves her lap-top bag on the floor in my office. Who gets punished, me or the company she works for?

The IRS gets involved when I try and claim some of our housing costs for expenses. Specifically I can only use the aforementioned 25% of my house for when I’m working. When I’m not working I can’t ever be in this room, period. I have to shut both the doors and keep people out. Because of our open floor concept of our house that’s not practical; I would have to make everyone walk around the long way to get to the kitchen from the stairs.

To complicate things, if we were to take these IRS rules seriously then we need to qualify what’s “work.” I’m going to college to get another degree in graphic design; does that mean I can’t do homework in this office? I have to have a separate space to do work-work and home work?

Who are these people and organizations to impose these rules and how could they be possibly enforceable? When can I expect the uniformed inspectors to come through the door for a spot inspection?

Because I ask these questions, I’m a “fringe lunatic” to some people. I’m an anarchist, a contrarian. Some might even say I’m an idiot, a right-wing conservative member of the tinfoil hat brigade! I don’t realize that these rules are for “my own good” and are in place to “protect me.” These rules are a good idea, but when I ask why are they a good idea and to whom… I get blank stares.

I’m just asking questions so I’m the bad guy.

I also have questions and concerns about Agenda21 and HUD Grants. I’m not out to run people out of town yelling “Ya niggrahs! Git outah mah town, ya hear!” I just want some answers to a couple of questions.

What is Agenda 21? What does it mean for me as someone who is trying to build a business and might want to hire some people and move into office space outside of my house someday? By merely asking the question, I’m a right-wing radical conspiracy theorist who believes the United Nations is trying to ‘take over the world!’ Could we just settle on the fact that - OK, maybe I like to entertain conspiracy theories around a campfire once in a blue moon – could we please nail down some answers about what is Agenda 21?

Nope. By simply asking for the facts I’m clearly in the wrong and the time for discussion is OVER!

I also want to know what are the strings to my town accepting HUD grants.; what does it mean to my town, the tax rates, the building codes and regulations.. does anything change? What are the benefits and the costs/consequences of accepting HUD grants? I want to hear both sides of the issue while I keep an open mind.

For merely asking these questions about HUD grants I’m a tinfoil hat brigade according to my good friend’s good friend… both of whom also happen to be “blog spotters.” “Susan The Bruce” hammered out a poison pen post about folks like myself who have questions. Some of us have gone too far by wanting us to vote on whether or not we ask for and accept grant money for the likes of HUD.

Wait… I thought voting was a good thing in a democracy.

All I want to know is the answers to some questions about the people “in charge” in appointed positions and the authority they’re exercising when it affects me, my business, my clients and even my competitors. Could the Federal or State government dictate to me what I can and can’t do in my own house via the strings attached to grants issued to my town? Can they dictate to us what I can or can’t do in my own backyard – or can they even dictate the size of my property by demanding that my town rewrite our zoning laws after we accept the aforementioned funds?

This is all about my space and my ability to use it and the gnawing feeling that our rights are being whittled away by unelected officials and those of us on both sides of the political isle are being vilified just for asking questions about the rules, what they mean and who is making them. If that makes me crazy, so be it. I’m not alone and in good company with other well meaning, considerate and passionate people who are also being driven crazy by the same concerns.

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