Building without a permit to cost double

Island County is headed back to the past in doubling the building permit fee for anyone who decides to build without a permit.

That was the policy until 2004, when the county, following the state’s lead, adopted the International Building Code, said Andy Griffin, Island County’s building official. The new code does not include the provision to double permit fees for scofflaws.

Since that time, people caught doing construction projects without a building permit have paid no financial penalty, unless the county decided to pursue criminal charges, which Griffin said was rare. Instead, a stop-work order was issued and work could not continue until a permit was issued.

Jeff Tate, Island County planning director, told the county commissioners in a staff session Wednesday that at present, “There is no real penalty if work is conducted without a permit ... that’s one of my concerns.”

Griffin told the commissioners that illicit builders seem to be thinking, “If I get caught I’ll just go in and get the permit.”

The problem is increasing, Griffin said Friday when asked about it.

“It seems to have spiked recently,” he said. “I’m not sure why. Maybe contractors are willing to take a chance on these jobs because work is getting scarce out there.”

The commissioners seemed to agree that doubling the building permit fee in such cases would be appropriated, but any decision has to await a regular business meeting.

The proposal is part of an overall plan to increase building permit fees by one and one-half percent in 2009, following a much larger increase last year.

“In 2008 we hadn’t increased fees in five years, so we took a big bite of the apple,” Tate said. The small 2009 increase simply puts Island County fees closer to those of neighboring counties.

Fees are based on the estimated value of a structure. The building permit fee for a $25,000 structure, for example, would be $1,881 under the proposal. Anyone caught building without a permit would have to pay double.

The commissioners are also contemplating increasing inspection fees and other permit fees related to construction and land development.

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