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County to offer OTC building permits

A committee of building trade professionals brought a request to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday aimed at streamlining the process of obtaining building permits for small building jobs.

The request was for the county to offer over-the-counter permits for smaller building jobs that, in many cases, would take less time to complete than the existing permit process itself.

The committee has worked on the proposal in conjunction with county personnel for weeks and the proposal was approved in a unanimous vote by the BoCC in favor of the measure.

Builder and building committee chair Larry Ash presented the item for approval at the Tuesday BoCC meeting.

Ash admitted that many building projects need to be subjected to a full review process, but said that, currently, it takes an average of seven days to receive a building permit — longer than smaller jobs take to complete.

In a later interview, Archuleta County Building Official John Sjoblom said, currently, new permits are put into a queue behind those permits already in process, whether for large or small projects.

Because of that, and the fact that the county has staff capable of doing over-the-counter permits, the builders’ committee hopes the over-the-counter permits will both simplify and speed up the permitting process.

In the interview, Sjoblom said applicants should be able to walk away after 15 to 20 minutes with a permit in hand.

“It makes it so these small projects are in and out much faster,” Sjoblom said, adding that, on the flip side, “If you’re bringing in a new home start, you’re not going to have five or six little projects in front of you.”

At the meeting, Commissioner Michael Whiting noted that the primary responsibility of government is to protect the safety of the citizens, but said this should be done in a way that does not get in the way of business.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero added that he had heard comments that the county stood in the way of building, adding that it was never the county’s intent to do so.

Following a comment from committee member Jim Van Leer noting the committee was “enjoyable” to serve on and had brought forward many points of view, the commissioners unanimously passed the measure.

Beginning Jan. 1, over-the-counter permits will be available for uncovered decks, covered decks, accessory structures and, with more strict requirements, commercial and residential foundations.

Individuals seeking permits for those items must meet the steps outlined in the county’s over-the-counter permit policy available from the building department.

In the case of foundations, the requirements are more stringent, as are the fines should an applicant do more than is allowed by the permit.

While the fees charged have not yet been approved, fees suggested for deck and accessory structure permits as part of the request to the BoCC are $250 — higher than the extended permit process, according to discussion on the topic, but also more convenient for builders who will then be able to complete jobs in a timely manner.

The fees for the permits will be approved by the BoCC either this month or in early January as part of the countywide fee schedule.

Sjoblom said that, in addition to the over-the-counter permits, the builders’ group and county staff are also working on creating standard applications for “typical” projects that would allow applicants to fill in the blanks for materials used and information specific to a project.

“We’re just trying to streamline and make it easier,” Sjoblom said.

The builders’ committee meetings take place at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays at the building department and are open to the public.

randi@pagosasun.com

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