County's staff comb rules for 'silliness'

Commissioners want to cut needless paperwork

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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After hearing how Clark County's community development department intends to make building permits and inspections easier to acquire, Clark County Commissioners asked staff to take their work a step further.

Commissioner Steve Stuart said he wants the department to look beyond the "simplification" of permits. He wants to see them eliminate some permits altogether.

"What permits are you going to get rid of?" Stuart asked. "What permits do we currently have that, rather than make simple … we can get rid of?"

The department is tasked with finding "silly" permits to cut from building and repair work done in the county.

Jim Muir, the county's chief building official, presented a few preliminary ideas on that front during Wednesday's meeting.

On the list to exempt from permitting are minor single-structure repairs where work is contained to less than 16 square feet, simple garage work that is less than 750 square feet, hot water system work done by homeowners and construction work done on decks, patios and porch covers.

Commissioners said that's a start, but asked for more. Commissioner David Madore asked for a list of "what (the county is) doing above and beyond" state regulations.

Stuart agreed with Madore, and both said the priorities for the department should be state law and public safety.

"You should be able to relate everything you do back to those principles," Stuart said

And so, the department will continue to work on ways to remove the silliness from the permitting process, an effort commissioners said will likely take several workshops to complete.

Beyond the cuts they hope to made, commissioners said they were happy with efforts to make things easier for residents applying for permits.

The department says it wants to expand a program used for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, under which inspectors visit one installation in 10. That saves time while still ensuring safe practices, Muir said. The program could be replicated for reroofing, and installations of windows or siding.

Stuart also pushed the department to consider what it needs to do to "enter the 21st century" technologically. Specifically, Stuart said, he wants to see an online portal where people can easily walk through the process of applying for permits.

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