Boulder County Land Use department, along with other County resources, just held a informational/brainstorming session with members of the local building and architect community. The County staff was soliciting ideas from those of us who have been through the permitting process, what steps might be useful to streamline or refine to help fire victims in the rebuilding process. This was not a meeting were the County dictated the new rules of the road, but rather was a great outreach to genuinely engage the building community about how to make the prospect of rebuilding after the Fourmile Fire less daunting.
A couple of dozen architects and builders were in attendence and a lot of really good suggestions were bandied about. Here is some of what was discussed:
- Create a streamlined Site Plan Review process for those projects that want to rebuild at a different size or location
- Resolve coordination conflicts for questions concerning site access with Transportation, Land Use and local fire officials
- Reduce or eliminate permitting fees
- Study the Ignition Resistant Construction guidelines and Wildfire Mitigation regulations to determine their relative effectiveness
- Investigate the vesting of rebuilding rights and their transferability
- Investigate the use of TDRs (Transferable Development Rights) and how they apply in this instance
- Relaxed regulations regarding the use of temporary structures on a property for owner’s use
- Create a faster review and turnaround time on the issuance of Demolition Permits, especially with regard to house debris and trees
- Review the Build Smart energy requirements to see if all or portions of this can be vacated or relaxed for fire damaged properties
- Coordinating with the County Health department on the condition of existing septic systems and their re-use
- Reviewing the documentation requirements for building approval
- Reviewing the inspection process and timing for sequenced building processes
- Coordinating the building and design communities to provide clear and effective information to the public
- Warning the public about the inevitable influx of possibly unqualified and unlicensed contractors taking advantage of the tragedy
- Creating a database of local professionals – builders and architects and others – available to assist in rebuilding efforts
The immediate plans for the County are largely focused on providing adequate staff to answer questions and issuing a packet to each effected property owner outlining the known facts about the property and existing buildings – existing house size, access, height, etc. I think this is a particularly useful project – every homeowner will have a base line package of information clearly detailing the various options for rebuilding approval process and how they impact their specific properties.
Inevitably some of the concerns raised were of a primarily territorial commercial nature. Architects and builders have been hit particularly hard in this recession and everyone would like more work. This was far from rallying around this tragedy as a golden goose opportunity, but there is real concern out there that the local building and design community see its far share of the work that will take place. And to especially the builder’s credit, there is serious concern about unscrupulous and shady builders sweeping in with low prices and crappy workmanship only to pack up and exit town leaving the community to fix and repair shoddy work over the next decade.
The Boulder Green Building Guild is pooling efforts in response and I am sure their website will soon have such information available. The Land Use Department of Boulder County is doing a superb job in trying to be as responsive as they can and their website will soon have links available as well. Or drop me a line if you have questions – if I can’t answer it I will point you in the right direction (you can see some of my previous posts on rebuilding requirements by the County)