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BoCC considers planning, permit issues

Multiple proposals to streamline business at the Archuleta County building and planning departments were brought before the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday afternoon, with mixed results.

The first request was to allow for “over-the-counter” permits for certain items, to expedite the permit process.

The proposed change would allow contractors and homeowners to complete part of the application process before going to the building department, and allow them to walk out the same day with a permit, instead of waiting 10-15 business days.

“I think this is a great concept and I think the builders do, too. I just think it needs a little bit more work,” Commissioner John Ranson said, adding that some of the feedback received brought up questions about whether certain items should require a permit — such as window replacement.

Ranson urged further simplifying the process by eliminating such permits.

Building official John Sjoblom was asked to comment on the need for window replacement permits where there was no structural change.

Sjoblom said the need for the permit was specified in county codes and that the over-the-counter permit would help eliminate the need for later code enforcement, something he admitted was not a popular service.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero said he believed the time for the change was not right.

“We’re in some tough economic times right now and right now, I don’t think this is the right time to implement the over-the-counter permits,” Lucero said, adding that it was an idea he could perhaps support down the road, but said he didn’t want to burden contractors any more than necessary at present.

Commissioner Bob Moomaw disagreed, stating, “I think now is actually the time (for over-the-counter permitting),” noting that it would streamline the process.

Moomaw said that, while he believes some of the fees were high, the county’s fee waiver was currently at 50 percent and indicated he would like to see the waiver reinstated as a 100-percent waiver in 2011.

In the end, Moomaw’s vote for the permits fell victim to two nay votes, from Ranson and Lucero.

The next agenda item aimed to amend Archuleta County Land Use Regulations Sections 1 and 2, regarding the process for a minor variance on property setback requirements. It was passed unanimously.

Senior Planner Cindy Schultz said the change will allow property owners the option to have minor variance requests go through an administrative process, versus the variance process that involves the planning commission and BoCC.

In the administrative route, property owners are able to gather necessary applications and letters of approval from affected property owners and utility companies, after which approval would likely take one week.

In addition to the shorter time period, administrative variances would be half the cost of a regular variance, at $125 versus $250.

Answering a question from Ranson, Schultz noted that property owners whose variances were denied administratively could then go through the normal variance process as a recourse.

A subsequent agenda item amended the 2010 county fee schedule to include the $125 charge.

randi@pagosasun.com