Pitkin County mulls extending expired building permits
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners expressed a willingness Tuesday to grant an extension for building permits that have expired or are poised to expire as a result of the current economic hard times.
“I think this is an unusual circumstance, an unusual time for the country,” said Commissioner George Newman.
Commissioners left the details of the proffered grace period up to the county’s planning and building staff, but made it clear any project that would no longer be allowed under the current land-use code will need a special review to address the code changes.
All who have expired or expiring permits will have to respond when they are notified of the expiration by the county; the extension won’t be automatic, commissioners agreed.
A one-year extension was discussed, but Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested the staff choose a length of time that makes the most sense. Fourteen months would get projects through next summer, she noted.
The extension date should be the same for everyone, regardless of when a permit expires, advised Lance Clarke, assistant Community Development director. The city of Aspen is granting extensions until June 30, 2011 to all who request it, he said.
Newman urged a similar approach in unincorporated Pitkin County, calling for a finite grace period.
“It’s anyone’s guess when the economy will really bounce back, when banks will start loaning money again,” he said. “This could continue on for three or four years.”
Richards suggested any project valued at less than $1 million, which likely encompasses remodeling work, additions and small-home construction, be granted the grace period if the project doesn’t face a change in the code since its original approval. Left unclear was what should happen to projects of greater value that don’t entail land-use code issues.
A specific proposal will come back to the commissioners for a review and vote, according to Clarke.
By the building department’s count, stalled home construction has led to the expiration of 19 building permits in the county and the pending lapse of 11 more. In addition, 17 permits could expire at some point after Sept. 1 if construction doesn’t commence.
Several projects were approved before the county updated its rules regarding streamside setback and the purchase of transferable development rights to obtain greater floor area, Clarke said. Those will require special review as part of any permit extension.
The county already has a policy governing reapplication for an expired building permit that reduces the fees under certain circumstances, since they were already paid once. A building permit for residential construction can cost thousands of dollars.
A special grace period driven by current economic hardship be an addition to the existing policy, Clarke explained.
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