Officials tackle abandoned building sites | SteamboatToday.com

Officials tackle abandoned building sites

City, county representatives hold joint meeting Wednesday

Christine Metz

— The City Council and Routt County Board of Commissioners are considering changing their policies for handling abandoned building sites.

At a joint meeting held Wednesday, the two boards tackled the issue of abandoned building sites that have become nuisances, something that has caused problems in the city. The officials discussed the timeframe in which a building permit will be voided, or abated and whether a policy should be added in the code to insure tidy construction sites.

Routt County Regional Building Department Chief Building Officer Mark Marchus said that, under the current code, a project expires if it is suspended or abandoned for more than 180 days. A new permit has to be issued before work can begin again.

Marchus said the only problem with the code is that the department does not have a reliable way to determine whether any work has been done. In the past, Marchus said, his department has relied on elapsed time between inspection requests to gauge whether work is under way.

If the 180 days run out before a request is made, the building department sends a letter to the permit holder warning of the possibility of abatement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, city and county officials discussed changing the permit process so that permits are issued expiration dates, which would release the department from relying on time between inspections.

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Councilman Steve Ivancie said that could harm people who are building a home out of pocket and are adding onto it as they save enough money.

“To limit building permits for any reason, I think we are getting into an area of private property rights, and I don’t know if we want to go there,” Ivancie said.

The group discussed whose role it would be to ensure building sites were tidy and whether the city would add a construction management plan to its code.

Marchus said the building department focuses on structures, and site management usually falls outside its responsibilities.

“We would like to be part of the process to come up with the solutions to the problems you are addressing and for those projects that sit and languish for a long period of time. There has to be some sort of mechanism to clean up those sites, Marchus said.

The abatement discussion was largely sparked by a house on Fish Creek Falls Road. A building permit was issued in 1994 and a foundation was in place in 1995. Two years later, complaints started coming in about neighborhood children using the construction site as a skate park.

Work began in 1998 but was delayed by various legal procedings and was not restarted until 2002. The house is still being completed. It is not a typical abatement situation, Marchus said.

Commissioner Doug Monger said the county does not have a problem with neighbors complaining about adjacent property sites.

“I have never heard a complaint in the county,” Monger said. “If you are not right next door to it, if you don’t have to look at it right outside your window, it might not be as offensive.”

In other business, the council and commissioners approved the makeup of the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, which will have more power than the existing advisory board but not as much as an authority.

Councilman Paul Strong will fill the city-appointed seat. Commissioner Dan Ellison will fill the Routt County commissioners’ seat. John Ponikvar was selected by the Moffat County commissioners and Craig City Council to represent that area. Hayden Mayor Chuck Grobe will hold the Hayden seat. The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. will have President Chris Diamond as its representative.

Attorney Michael Lassota holds the seat for a community member. Ulrich Salzgeber is the business representative on the board. Marty Kolonel and Joseph McNasby are the two members representing the aviation community.

City Manager Paul Hughes said he would like to get the commission together as soon as possible to start discussing budget issues.

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