Contractors Association, town council collaborate to sort out issues
The Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe and the Truckee Town Council will be meeting for a public workshop to discuss approval issues in the building department Sept. 15 at 4 p.m.
In response to a written and oral statement given by CATT Executive Director Joe Burns at the council on Aug. 7, the council agreed to hold a workshop, rather than a hearing, to work out some approval issues.
“[CATT] is extremely concerned about the continued direction of the town building department and its plans examination and inspection process,” the statement reads. “Each building season, the department is unable to efficiently process the load of incoming plans in a timely and acceptable manner.”
Burns – backed up by a group of approximately 30-40 CATT members – told the town council the building department was not able to handle the rush of projects that flowed in every spring. According to the statement, remodel projects could cost owners nearly $300,000 per year in mortgage interest and forgone rent, and more than $1 million in loss of opportunity costs.
Also, for new projects, CATT reported delays could cost the community $200,000 to $300,000 in “interest carry, tax roll and related delay costs.” CATT’s statement said, “An additional four-week delay in permit processing costs our economy approximately $500,000 in hard cost and hundreds of thousands more in lost opportunity annually.”
Burns later said he wasn’t so concerned about big developers or contractors, but the small owners. “It’s the ‘mom and pop’ who want to build a deck, or a small remodel,” he said. Because of the current process time, the ‘mom and pop’ owners “don’t even ask for a permit, or the permit takes too long to get approved.”
It goes beyond the owner, as well, according to Burns. “The effect this (delay) has in the community is getting bigger and bigger.” The effect is “The loss of revenue, caused by extended plan check times and certain inspection procedures, to our economy.”
Although the town council agreed to the workshop just two weeks ago, CATT and Truckee Mayor Ted Owens said these issues have been surfacing for more than five years. “We’re getting tired of hearing the same complaints,” he said. He said it was time to stop talking and take action.
Truckee Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook added, “It’s a complicated situation with difficult issues. It makes sense to sit down and work out the issues.”
Scope of the workshop
CATT outlined what it thought were the pressing problems: plans examiners overriding engineers, policy changes, staff direction, use of a plan-return policy, contracting with an outside source and turnaround time.
CATT said the problem with policy changes is when changes are made to code or department policies, CATT is not notified in an appropriate amount of time. Owens echoed this sentiment.
CATT also said money spent on an outside inspectors – currently more than $60,000 and approaching $100,000 by the end of the year, they say – could be used to hire a full-time inspector/examiner.
In addition to keeping the funds in the community, CATT said the full-time inspector, “could provide additional services in the off-season and refrain from mandatory overtime of other examiners in the peak season.”
What an agreement would mean to the community
Because a delay in project approval means loss revenue to the developer and/or contractor, it also means an economic hit to the community, Burns said. He said contractors have been passing on the opportunity to build in Truckee, “because of the excessive subjective scrutiny of the building department.” Once a developer passes on building, that means the money is going elsewhere.
Also, CATT reported homeowners are not building small projects or remodeling because they feel the process is too lengthy. This also takes money out of the community.
The workshop, which will be held at Truckee Town Hall, will be open to the public for observation and discussion.
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