Saturday, September 16, 2000

City asked to reduce building permits

DeWine says minor projects become hassle

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Councilman Pat DeWine says when homeowners want to replace a flagpole they wind up getting the shaft.

        That's because permit fees required by the city cause small home improvement projects to cost more in Cincinnati than they do in the rest of Hamilton County.

Pat DeWine
Pat DeWine
        Replacing a window? Don't forget the $60 building permit. Installing a flagpole? That will be $200 for an inspector to review plans and issue the permit.

        “I think it's important to reduce bureaucracy,” Mr. DeWine said Friday. “We need to make it easier to own a home, fix up a home in the city.”

        On Wednesday, he will ask City Council to exempt six projects from building permit requirements. Among these are window, roof and fence replacement; installation of new siding, gutters and downspouts; and flagpole installation.

        “This gets rid of 20 percent of the total permits issued in the city,” Mr. DeWine said.

        It will also cut city revenues derived from permits by about $210,000, said William Langevin, director of the buildings and inspections department.

        “Rather than say we support it, I would rather say we are not opposed to it,” he said. “This would make us uniform with Hamilton County. ... and that's not a bad thing.”

        The permit cuts would only apply to one-, two- and three-family dwellings not located in an environmental quality or historic conservation district.

        Mr. Langevin said permits for these projects are in the low range of the city's fee schedule. And he said the cost of inspecting single-family homes is often more than the permit brings in.

        Permit fees vary according to the price of the work and the money goes directly to the city's general fund. The loss, he said, will not affect any operations.

        “Our inspectors only enforce minimum standards,” Mr. Langevin said. “Inspections don't guarantee perfect jobs.”

        Nevertheless, he said the per mits considered for cuts do not pose any safety concerns and mostly deal with replacement rather than new construction.

        “I don't think we should be in the business of making money by charging people for fixing their own homes,” Mr. DeWine said.

        Besides, a lot of people don't bother applying for permits on home improvement projects, he said.

        “So what we're doing is putting up a bureaucratic roadblock for people who have a conscience.”


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