By Lyndsie Kiebert
Bonner County commissioners unanimously approved a series of changes to the county’s Title XI building code on July 13, continuing the Planning Department’s efforts to update the code to better reflect what’s happening on the ground in Bonner County.
Planning Director Milton Ollerton presented the proposed edits, which included recognizing structures built before 2008 — when the current zoning code was adopted — as nonconforming structures; introducing a small structure permit to replace the exemption currently required for structures smaller than 1,000 square feet; and eliminating the requirement that subdivisions install a 2,000-gallon water tank to assist with firefighting efforts — a requirement that local fire districts continuously waive.
“Not only is the fire district waving those requirements when they sign off on the [building location permits], they’re informing us that they will not use those tanks when they go to a fire at that structure,” Ollerton said, noting that the tanks could potentially be “growing” things that could “clog” and damage fire fighting equipment.
The Title XI changes also included the option to extend the effective dates of building location permits, which are currently only valid for one year.
“What we’re finding, with the price of lumber and the number of contractors who are extended two years out, folks are being diligent and getting their building location permits but finding that they’re having to ask for continual renewals in order to start progress on building that structure,” Ollerton said.
Rather than start the process over again each year, Ollerton suggested allowing a three-year extension for a “nominal fee.”
While Title XII zoning code changes require approval by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and BOCC, Title XI updates require only BOCC approval.
Next, Ollerton said his department will work on a more effective enforcement policy for when building and zoning regulations are violated.
“We will be back shortly with adding an infraction process to our enforcement,” he said.
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