Permits expiring as construction stalls in Pitkin County |

Permits expiring as construction stalls in Pitkin County

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Stalled home construction in unincorporated Pitkin County has led to the expiration of 19 building permits and the pending lapse of 11 more. With thousands of dollars in fees tied up in the permits, the county is pondering whether to extend the approvals or make owners start over again.

The economic climate apparently gets the blame for the slowdown, according to staffers in the county’s community development department. The county has a policy regarding reapplication for an expired permit – one that forces the applicant to pay some or all of the fees anew, plus a reapplication fee – but county commissioners are being asked if they’d like to take a more lenient approach, under the circumstances.

According to a summary of affected permits, 14 have expired on already-started projects because construction has stalled for six months or more, and five permits have expired over the past year because construction didn’t begin within the required year after the permit was issued. In addition, 11 permits are poised to expire between May 1 and Sept. 1, and 17 permits that were issued before May 1 may expire at some point after Sept. 1 if construction does not commence.

The department has begun to receive inquiries about the fate of permits on projects that aren’t moving forward, according to Tony Fusaro, chief building official.

“We’ve had some anonymous questions – what would happen if …? We’ve noticed it could be an issue,” he said.

Staffers aren’t making any recommendation to commissioners, but are asking what should be done. Various other jurisdictions are facing the same issue, and addressing it in varying ways.

“It’s happening everywhere,” Fusaro said.

The city of Aspen is extending all permits, at the permit holder’s request, until June 30, 2011, according to a memo to the commissioners. Various other jurisdictions are working with permit holders on a case-by-case basis, including Vail and Glenwood Springs. Steamboat Springs is letting permits lapse and charging a fee for a three-year extension – a response that is generating a slew of complaints, the memo indicates.

In Pitkin County, residential building permit fees are assessed based on the value of the structure. The permit fee for a $1 million home is $6,874, according to Fusaro. It goes up $5.65 for each additional $1,000 of value. The county also assesses fees for various components of its review, including plan review.

Under current county policy, a permit holder may be eligible for reduced fees when they reapply for a lapsing or lapsed permit under certain conditions, including if the same building code and land-use rules remain in effect. If new codes have been adopted in the interim, the applicant may have to pay the full fee amount again, and obtain a new land-use approval.

At present, there are one or two expired or expiring permits that would be affected by changes to streamside setback requirements in the county code. Another three or four projects would be subject to changes that require the purchase of a TDR, or transferable development right, in order to obtain the desired floor area, according to the memo to commissioners.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the permit issue on Tuesday.