Are Craig and Moffat County open for business? An interview with Moffat County Building Inspector, part 2
Editors Note: This is the second and final article a two-part series that seeks to answer the question: Are Craig and Moffat County open for business?
CRAIG —Businesses involved in construction or renovation now navigate a single building department to secure permits and inspections.
Regional Building Official Marlin Eckhoff is on the city planning and zoning staff and serves as city and county building inspector.
In the first part of an interview, published Wednesday, Craig Press sought information about how building permit decisions are made.
In this followup, we learn that regulations did not prevent Sonic from building in Craig and that 2017 is on track to finish as one of the strongest construction years in the past five.
Craig Press: How many permits have been issued by the city?
Marlin Eckhoff: As of Nov.17, the total permits for 2017 are as follows:
City — building, 117; manufactured home, 7; HVAC, 17; plumbing 29.
County — building, 29; manufactured homes, 6; HVAC, 17; plumbing 9.
CP: How many site plans have been approved?
Eckhoff: Four this year
CP: How many variances have been requested?
CP: How many have been granted?
CP: Why were the two variances denied?
Eckhoff: One was for a variance to the size of a residential accessory building. We have a maximum of 1,500 square feet. His request was to build a 1,500-square-foot shop, with an additional 600-square-foot lean-to roof on two sides, making a total of 2,700 square feet. Planning and zoning felt that the argument for the variance did not cause enough of a hardship to grant it without setting a precedent. He is still allowed to build the shop, but without the additional lean-to roofs.
The only other variance that was denied was for an access road to a new business. The request was to gravel a majority of an access road to a farm equipment and sales facility. Our land use code requires that all parking and primary access to parking areas shall be asphalt or concrete. Planning and zoning felt that the argument for the variance did not cause enough of a hardship to grant it without setting a precedent and felt that it may cause an issue with adjoining properties if not correctly maintained to prevent dust, etc.
Neither of these two variances was appealed to city council by the applicants.
CP: What recourse does a permittee have when a variance is denied?
Eckhoff: The applicants can appeal to City Council. They will review the variance and can overturn planning and zoning’s decisions with a majority vote.
CP: Are/have city/county codes or processes discouraged commercial and/or residential building?
Eckhoff: Our land use code is less restrictive than many other cities in Colorado and more restrictive than others, however, I believe the Community Development Department and our current planning and zoning members use a common sense approach to work with applicants, so we do not discourage development, while still keeping a well thought out design for the proposed project. We realize that all situations are not the same and try to come up with a plan that will work well for both the applicant and the city.
A lot of times, commercial companies that come to town actually go above and beyond our requirements. A good example of this is Sonic; prior to being the building official, I heard for years that city requirements kept Sonic from building here, so I dug out their site plan from 2008.
Since it was a small lot, it did not require much landscaping or parking. The plan they submitted had three times the amount of parking and over 14 times the amount of landscaping than the city required. The site plan was also approved by all five of the planning and zoning commissioners, and they could have started building after securing a permit. I assume the downturn in the economy was their reasoning for not building.
Sometimes, when a certain business backs out, we assume it is the restrictions, and while, occasionally, that may be the case, we try to encourage new development, while still making it an asset to the community.
CP: What is being done to review and update city/county codes?
Eckhoff: We do have a few land use codes we want to address, mainly because they are pretty vague and do not cover a very wide range of uses. We would like to get them more detailed and itemized to make the planning process more efficient.
CP: Why is this important?
Eckhoff: This is important so the applicants will know ahead of time the exact requirements for their use and occupancy and may not require as many variances.
CP: What role will the public have in the update process?
Eckhoff: The public can attend any planning and zoning meeting to ask questions, address any concerns or just to see how the process works.
When we update any codes it will be discussed at planning and zoning and then taken to City Council. As of right now, we do not have any big changes in store for our land use code, just a few things we need to tidy up a bit
CP: How much money has the city earned on permitting, and how does that compare to previous years?
Eckhoff: Here are the city permit fees:
2013 — $ 36,378
2014 — $ 39,314
2015 — $ 28,389
2016 — $ 70,205
Projected 2017 — $ 55,000
As of Nov. 17, 2017, the combined total of city and county permits was $76,290, with a projected total for 2017 of around $90,000, plus miscellaneous revenue, such as license and exam fees, will be around $10,000.
I do not have previous numbers for the county, however the total number of new residences is up from previous years, with eight stick-built, two modular homes and five manufactured homes, for a total of 15.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
This year, a handful of Moffat County High School graduates are setting out to carry on the family tradition. From business to education, these students plan to follow in the footsteps their parents and in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents.