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Pierce County permit violators have it coming

Post by Kim Bradford on May 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm with 3 Comments »
May 5, 2010 6:09 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Want a sure-fire way to not get caught by Pierce County officials looking for buildings constructed without a permit?

Don’t construct a building without a permit.

Pierce County building officials are once again catching undue flack for a program that uses aerial photographs to find building-permit scofflaws.

County council members describe the program as “troubling.” KOMO commentator Ken Schram tried to stoke outrage Wednesday with a Schrammie and an entreaty to Pierce County to “put away the spy camera.”

The fuss is overblown. As regulatory enforcement initiatives go, this one is about as unobtrusive and forgiving as they get in the 21st century.

It is not the invasion of privacy that some critics claim. The county’s aerial photograps – taken for flood-planning purposes – are relatively unsophisticated. Anyone with an Internet connection can get a better and closer view of their neighbor’s property than Pierce County planners can.

The county’s planning department uses those photos to identify structures that were modified or added between 2005 and 2008. Then it checks to see if permits were issued on the work. So far, 24 percent of the structures reviewed did not have the necessary permits.

And if they didn’t have permits, it’s highly likely no one inspected the structure either. That’s the heart of the issue, despite claims that the crackdown on illegal structures is nothing but a shameless money-maker.

Yes, the county has collected $107,000 by scouting out such violations and inviting violators to enroll in an amnesty program. But that was money those property owners should have paid the county in the first place.

Building permits exist for a reason: To ensure that developers, contractors and property owners do things by the book.

The 2001 collapse of a substandard deck that killed a Pacific Lutheran University student is a well-known example of the possible hazards. But inspectors have found many other dangers in the 3,200 illegal garages and other structures they’ve discovered in reviewing just 11 percent of the county’s unincorporated acreage.

Here’s a sampling: Swimming pool decks with gaping voids between the decking and pool structure, buildings without smoke detectors or egress windows, showers installed without safety glass, a deck roof jerry-rigged with cables to keep it from toppling, an improperly constructed shed with wood-burning cookers that had charred surrounding timbers.

Let’s remember how the county got into this predicament. The county assessor-treasurer’s office, which normally would have alerted the planning department to illegal structures, skipped physical inspections of property for several years.

So, in some cases, property owners not only skirted the building permit process, they also escaped alerting the tax man to an increased property value.

That’s neither safe nor fair. To suggest that the county sit on evidence that identifies the scofflaws is absurd.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. OleSarge says:

    Please, Give Me What I have “Coming”. No where in your misguided lecture on morality did I see anything about what the Pierce County Government intends on doing about the morally offensive “shed builders”. How about they, and the News Tribune Editorial Staff, give the subscribers to their news papers and the taxpaying citizens the small token of respect we deserve. Of course, that’s impossible because this isn’t about respect. It is about the Democratic way of tax and spend. And, we the home owners, are readily assessable targets of a bloated and lazy government whos atrophied system of morals and greed knows the homeless or destitute cannot fuel their lust for money and power. This is not about “Big Brother”, as your inaccurate and misleading ramblings would have the less informed believe. No airplane camera took photographs of a swimming pool, deck, nor, most certainly not of a “smoking” cooker. This is about making those of us who have succeeded in staying in our homes, in spite of ever increasing tax burdens, lost retirement funds and little or no possibility of ever achieving their reasonably desired goals in life, pay for the laziness and ineptitude of a government incapable of finding a legal source of revenue to feed their insatible appetite for money. And, the target of your abusive language and condescending tone is not directed toward criminals. It is indeed directed to no one other than those who make Pierce County and Washington State a great place for everyone to live and raise their children. It is the home owners, not renters, transients, or government stimulated town house dwellers who build schools, pave roads and pay to maintain greenbelts and parks. “Sheds” house lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, tree pruning equipment, pressure washers, and, horror of horrors, the family bicycles. These objects are so offensive to the liberal because they represent a decent and well maintained community condusive to increased property and….yes, family system of values. Families who live under the cameras are law abiding citizens who merely want to protect what they have spent countless hours of overtime and commuting, to a job they hated, to pay for, and cannot be replaced when destroyed by the weather or stolen by the real crooks. Unless you are ready to send the the $100,000.00’s of dollars I have already payed Pierce County in property taxes, pease, don’t threaten me with “Getting What’s Coming to Me”. You can never repay me, or my neighbors, for the amount of sweat, blood and tears we have shed to keep this a free country and a place where even a moral spieling liberal can live without fear.

  2. geeterpontiac says:

    Big Brother watches.

  3. jlcitizen says:

    OleSarge
    Well spoken and is exactly the way I feel.
    A tin shed for the lawn tools and a rain shelter for the RV. The process and money it will cast to make these “legal?” is mind boggling. I have to get a “Water Availability Certificate” for a metal roof over the RV, but of course I could just park the RV without the metal roof and be perfectly legal and with no permit required. This is NOT for our protection. This is a revenue stream and nothing more. The last I checked I was a responsible adult and can look out for myself, especially on my private property. These metal sheds are just sitting on gravel with no permanent aspects at all. Nothing more than a metal tent, yet we need to Pay pay pay.

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