I’ve taken on a very large and irritatingly complicated project. We have many laws here that involve archaeological sites, in addition to the federal ones. And this one is taxing them all.
Background: A property here was recently sold by the original owners (and by ‘original’ I mean the offspring of the guy who bought and built the existing house) to someone from out of state. It was a large house on a waterfront property. Initially, they called us in to do a small survey as they wanted to create a new septic system. It sits within a major site, although not a lot of work has been done in this particular lot. I found mostly disturbed shell midden but also a bit of apparently undisturbed midden.
After I submitted all that, I didn’t hear from the new owners for a couple of months and then they called back and said they’d decided to tear down the house and build anew.
So for the last couple of months I’ve been writing excavation permits for more testing, excavation, survey, and a whole lot of other stuff and it’s just been getting worse and worse from the owners’ perspective. We’d thought it probably didn’t have much of any intact stuff there — it had been an industrial site in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — but then once they’d got the old foundation out and we could see some profiles it turned out to be chock full o’ intact midden.
And did I mention all of the human remains that have turned up?
Basically, it turned into the worst case scenario. The owner will have to either radically rethink his design to minimize any new excavations or. . . .well, pack it up and sell. At this point either option I see as likely. If they decide to go ahead, it will mean tens of thousands of dollars of data recovery and screening for human remains and then monitoring all through the excavations for the new structures. In other words, a LOT of money.
Which basically kind of irritates me. As much as I want intact archaeological deposits to be preserved, it bothers me that the State can demand an individual pay thousands of dollars to do things on his own property that do not materially affect anyone else. That just feels too much like seizure by default. “Oh, sure, you can do whatever you want on your property. . . .but we’re going to make you pay to do so.”
Hence, it’s all making me a bit uncomfortable. They’re (the owners) aren’t exactly blaming us for all this, but being the middleman in the process doesn’t make me feel good. Thus, it’s been causing me some stress.