County Supervisors Approve Extension of Permit Fee Reductions

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EL CENTRO — In a continued effort to encourage residential property owners to undertake safe residential repairs and improvements that enhance their living conditions and extend the life of their homes, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the Residential Rehabilitation Building Permit Fees Reduction program to June 30, 2018, and the “Amnesty Program” to December 31 of this year.

On October 21, 2014, the supervisors adopted a “temporary fee reduction” program for residential rehabilitation along with an “amnesty program” for unpermitted residential rehabilitation. The temporary fee reduction originally ran from October 21, 2014 to June 30, 2016, while the amnesty program was set for October 21, 2014 to June 30, 2016.

Planning and Development Services Director Jim Minnick informed the board that from October 21, 2014 to June 6, 2016, the county issued 330 permits varying from minor electrical repairs, HVAC replacement or repairs, plumbing, patio/carport, re-roofing, residential remodeling, decks, ramps and window replacements, with a total savings to property owners of $81,573 in fees. The amnesty program did not result in a single permit being filed.

“Overall the program has been successful. However, it has cost the county potential revenue,” said Minnick. “It is important to know that one of the goals was to see an increase in overall building permits, and we did see that, but at the same time, this was only a 20-month program.”

According to Minnick, the program resulted in an increase in building permit applications, ensuring small projects were performed in compliance with Imperial County Land Use regulations and the Building Codes set in Title 9, and a decrease in the amount of unpermitted work being done.

The “amnesty program” was designed to help bring unpermitted repairs and rehabilitations of existing residential structures into compliance through the building permit process. The program provides a temporary waiver of fines/permits for unpermitted work done prior to October 21, 2014.

Currently, the county charges doubled fees for work performed without a permit. The goal of the one-year amnesty program was to encourage the voluntary compliance of property owners. Permitted, inspected repairs and rehabilitation work would help ensure the safety of structures, along with improving the living conditions, which would also help with the residential structures’ value and resale.

“I support this 100% and I’m glad this program exists because the fees sometimes kill people,” said Michael Kelley, District 3 supervisor.

District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo suggested expanding the permit reduction program to new housing developments that would encourage developers to build additional homes in the Valley.

“I think we really need affordable housing and reducing permit fees might encourage them to build 100, 200, 300 homes,” said Castillo.

District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley suggested the board consider sharing the idea with other jurisdictions, saying it is important to make improvements to homes that result in added value.