Things slowing down, but in the codes office not quite yet

This is a typical comment received in the office this time of year. It’s an assumption that once Labor Day weekend has passed; everything slows down for the code office.

Actually things pick up for a while. Neighborly complaints may slow down because so many people who own second homes have gone back to their primary home.

But the building permit activity actually picks up.

Contractors are busy trying to get that foundation in the ground before the winter begins. This can be in just a few weeks, hopefully a few months.

The snow by itself will not prevent footings and foundations going in, but the cold combined with fighting the snow can make it really tough to get anything done.

There are lots of people trying to get things going now. And of course, why involve the code office in a timely manner for plan review?

Actually, while writing this article, there have been two interruptions regarding new single family dwelling applications and, of course, time is of the essence.

A quick look at the plans, specifically the design criteria, the roof snow load was wrong, no accurate surveyor’s map showing the shoreline and structure setback, the NYS Energy Code verification with a ResCheck is missing, no septic design or site analysis and the house may be in the 100 year Flood Plain as shown on the Flood Plain maps.

It’s too bad this office was not contacted before now. It could take weeks, or even months, to get this information.

There is no doubt “emergency” calls will be made to the surveyor, engineer and/or architect to get these things resolved now.

Then the big question is asked… “Can’t we just start clearing the lot and get the footings and foundation in now?”

Maybe yes, maybe no. Each situation is different.

When setbacks from property lines are close and cannot be verified, when soil conditions may be challenging for the design and placement of a septic system, when questions about the location of potential floodplains arise, those issues must be determined before the placement of the house. Actually, before the site is disturbed.

However, if it’s painfully clear those issues are obviously of no concern, the issuance of a “foundation only” permit may be available.

Still certain information on the foundation plan must be shown. Things like insulation of the slab or basement walls, inside or outside, grade and final grade all need to be clarified.

The issuance of a “foundation only” building permit is just that… foundation only. Too many times, once the foundation is in, contractors keep right on rolling.

The first floor platform goes in, walls start going up, and this office has to be the bad guy and stop the project due to the lack of complete plans.

Last but not least, when the property owner and/or contractor think we are being uncooperative, they call the Town Supervisor or their favorite board member.

Fortunately, this office has never been pressured by inappropriate requests by any board member to do something that is, or could be conceived as a favor for someone.

Will they call to ask questions to find out what is going on?

Absolutely, as they should. In-fact, we encourage board members to call with questions because sometimes they can help in the process.

But we have never had any demands. Code enforcement is code enforcement.

We have plenty of issues to deal with, some awkward, some straight forward… we don’t write the laws nor can we change the regulatory requirements.

Back to the point of this article… Yes, this office will remain pretty hectic until Thanksgiving.

We understand some applicants will be in a hurry, and that’s fine. It’s that time of year. If this office can issue permits comfortably, we will.

If there are questions or issues, we will speak up. That’s our job. We are not here to intentionally slow down the progress of any project.

The plan review stage of any project is the best, and sometimes the only time, to identify potential issues and get them resolved on paper before anything starts.

Proper planning up front with the design professionals, the contractor, the owner, all other agencies and this office, in a timely manner is key to a smooth, progressive project.

Help us help you.

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