Steamboat Springs The 640 Routt County residents who received troubling letters from the Building Department in March might want to keep their eyes on the mailbox for better news.
The Building Department Administrative Oversight Committee, comprising county and city officials, agreed Wednesday to allow people who pulled building permits between 2001 and 2007 to extend those permits annually for $200 instead of the previously announced fee.
The fee announced in March would have required those 640 permit holders who were unable to complete their projects by the end of this year to pay an amount equivalent to half of their original building permit fee — potentially thousands of dollars, depending on the value of the project.
City Manager Jon Roberts hit on a solution to the issue, which has upset some people who have been taking more than the three years allowed under the building code to complete a construction project before their permit expires.
“Could you look at the 50 percent (of the original permit fee) as a reissuance fee?” Roberts asked his fellow committee members. “And could you also have an extension fee payable before it expires?”
“That’s a good idea,” committee co-chairman and City Councilman Scott Myller said.
The result was the $200 extension fee.
Historically, the county has not expired building permits. The current three-year limit is the result of an agreement hammered out in 2008 between the city and county, who share the services of the Building Department.
The new rules about expiring building permits were reviewed by the Routt County Board of Commissioners and were intended to clear up outstanding uncompleted permits. That was meant to help the self-funded Building Department, which has seen revenue declines, get a handle on the number of prepaid inspections it still is obligated to perform. The original 50 percent fee was intended to create a strong incentive and to account for inflation in the cost of providing the service.
Wednesday’s change would give 640 holders of permits dated between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2007, until the end of the year to complete their building projects or obtain an extension by paying the $200 annual fee. The same would apply to people who didn’t get the letter but got permits in 2008 and 2009. They could extend the permit again at the end of 2011 or 2012 and every year after, as long as they did so by Dec. 31 of that year. Waiting too long would kick in the 50 percent fee.
Building Department Official Carl Dunham said he would begin drafting a letter detailing the new rules immediately and send it to the 640 affected permit holders as soon as he can get the wording confirmed.
“That needs to happen yesterday so people know what’s going on,” Dunham said.
People who are building on permits issued before 2001 still will be subject to the 50 percent fee if they decide to revive their permit or obtain a final inspection.
Those people did not receive letters from the Building Department, but the new rules were publicized in newspaper articles, advertisements and public forums. Those announcements generated just two responses, Dunham said.
The right to appeal
The new rules also establish an appeals process, at the urging of county attorney John Merrill and with the approval of city staff attorney Dan Foote. Merrill suggested in writing that the basis for the appeal process is that historically, the county has not expired building permits.
In order to succeed in an appeal to first Dunham and then the oversight committee, Merrill suggested, the permit holders must demonstrate that they relied on the county’s past practices, by showing ongoing construction activity and giving a justifiable reason for not completing the work.
Tom Fox, one of two building contractors in the audience, said he has worked with clients who plan to string out the construction process beyond three years because they don’t want to take out a loan and have the annual cash flow to build without one.
“I think we’ve reached a solution that makes everyone accountable, including ourselves,” committee co-chairman and County Commissioner Doug Monger said.