County staff will review permits to seek out silliness

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County commissioners plan to discuss "silly permits" in the coming months in an effort to make the county a little more buildable, and make folks' experience in the community development department a little more bearable.

Commissioner-elect David Madore broached the topic last month during a board time discussion, saying he had received emails and comments about "permits from hell" since being elected to office.

One example, Madore said, is that of a local church that wanted to install a play structure in its yard only to be stymied by a site plan review.

"I'm not saying we should make an exception (on one permit)," Madore said. "It's not what we can do to just help these people out, but ask, what are we doing here? I want the chance for our staff to play the hero, to say we're here to help you. Not to stand in your way."

Marty Snell, the county's director of community development, followed up on the church's play structure and found it didn't actually need any permits.

Such miscommunications, Snell said, often happen if an applicant provides incomplete information.

"We're only going to be able to be as precise as the information we're given," Snell said.

But Snell does agree with Madore that there are some permits that should be reexamined.

"I'm thinking, we look at anything with minor residential work," he said.

Examples of such work include reroofing or re-siding a home, for which a permit costs $220, or building decks or deck coverings, with fees on a sliding scale.

Snell said he doesn't think the permits should be completely dismissed, but he does feel the fees could be reduced.

Snell is also asking his staff what they think needs to be modified, on a suggestion by Commissioner Tom Mielke.

Both Mielke and Commissioner Steve Stuart used the term "silly permits" when discussing the idea of reviewing the costs.

"We do need to get things out that just don't make sense," Stuart said.

Snell said he expects county workers will have a complete list to present around March. From there, the commissioners will decide what stays, what goes and what changes in the permit department.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com.