Scott City may tighten construction permit process

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Residential builders in Scott City may soon face more stringent standards and a program of inspecting the progress of their work. The discussion follows a few instances of builders dragging their feet in finishing rehabilitation projects on single-family residential properties.

The city's building permit process is somewhat open-ended as it's written now, said city administrator Ron Eskew. The planning and zoning commission can grant building permits for a period of six months, but nothing is included in the process to check on progress and entice builders not to stall. After the six months is over, the permit can be renewed.

"We don't check to see if any work has been done. We're looking at starting to include progress," Eskew said.

The city's ordinance committee will take up the issue at its 6 p.m. Monday meeting, said committee chairwoman LeAnn Wilthong. So far the committee hasn't discussed the issue much, Wilthong said, but hopes to have an ordinance recommendation by the next council meeting July 16.

Some discussion has taken place in council meetings, where the issue has come up in the context of starting condemnation procedures of structures where builders haven't made adequate progress. In one instance, a builder was still working on rehabilitating the same home he'd first gotten a permit for three years ago.

Mayor Tim Porch has been outspoken on the issue.

"We're setting a precedent here where you can build a house and take however many years to finish it you want to," Porch said at a previous council meeting.

So far the city has worked with builders who don't finish up in the required amount of time, but the city's stance could turn less diplomatic depending on what form the new rules take.

Implementing an inspection process could alleviate much of the problem, Eskew said. Other area cities, like Cape Girardeau and Jackson, work in regular inspections as a way of measuring progress on a building.

Incidents of builders dragging their feet have been few and isolated, though, so much so that Ward 1 Councilman Bill Schwartz, a member of the ordinance committee that meets Monday night, said the problem was a rather minor one.

Eskew said those few cases that have come up have been the result of condemnable structures being rehabilitated by people who aren't contractors, who have other jobs and other obligations to fill.

"They save money by doing it themselves, but they don't have as much time as they thought," Eskew said.

335-6611, extension 182

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