Is the County Trying to Make Our Lives Harder?

After homelessness, crime, and potholes, the most common complaint I heard and continue to hear is that the county makes it hard for builders to develop land and for property owners to improve their properties.

Many shared stories of 2 specific ways the county makes improving your property a burden. The first goes something like this – you go to the county to get a permit to renovate your kitchen. When the county staff come out to review your property, they notice a shed on your property that was never permitted and they throw you on the blacklist. Before you can renovate your kitchen, you need to bring your shed up to code or tear it down.

The second example takes this story one step further. You apply for a permit and the county scans aerial photos of your property and finds an unpermitted deck off the back of the house. No permit for the kitchen until the deck is dealt with. This proactive approach to code enforcement became standard practice in the mid-1990s.

And it is exactly the wrong mindset. The county’s goal shouldn’t be to catch people violating 1 of thousands of regulations and codes and then penalize them – though code enforcement is necessary to protect our health and safety and keep the county beautiful. The county’s goal should be to serve our people and deliver a benefit to us for our tax dollars – especially when we’re trying to make county properties better.

So, here’s the good news.

The county’s Resource Management Department discontinued both of these practices almost 2 years ago.

In addition, the county has developed plans for 6 different ADU (accessory dwelling unit) units that are pre-approved. You can use one of those plans and skip the plan check process.

These are steps in the right direction. But we must go further.

We must have a way of hearing from the residents our Resource Management Department serves to see if we’re prioritizing serving them.

As of the last Board meeting, we now do. Supervisor Kelstrom sponsored adding a customer service survey for all departments. This will enable us to know on an ongoing basis if the county is doing a good job serving our community.

I’m optimistic about the current direction of our Resource Management Department, but know we have work still to do. This survey should help us determine when and what we need to do to continue to provide better services.

Do you have a story of an experience – good or bad – with the county Resource Management Department that you could share with me?

If so, please email me.