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Commissioner welcomes feedback on proposed building code changes

Recently, I had a chance to look into the permit and inspection process that affects all property owners in the unincorporated areas of Grays Harbor. The existing regulatory situation that allows you to build an outbuilding on your property is a combination of luck and red tape.

Today, if you desire to put up a work shed of an approximate size of ten by twenty feet, or 200 square feet, you do not need any type of permit or inspection.

If, on the other hand, you desire to have a slightly larger structure for any number of purposes, an extensive permit and inspection process is required. I think it would be fair to say that many have relayed to me personally their frustration in going through the various hoops involved.

It is important that the county be involved in the design and construction of larger structures, for the health and safety of the people. Outbuildings, sheds etc., are most often of a modest size and are currently lumped in with the larger type buildings in regards to regulation, permits, and inspections. It is my intention to make the process simpler for the average homeowner to place either a pre built type structure, or a do-it-yourself accessory building on your own property. Or to put it simpler, allow an individual to bypass the inspection process and do so with a modest fee.

Why a small administrative fee? Grays Harbor County is required to maintain a limited amount of oversight throughout the process. The County Assessor, Building Department as well as the Planning Department will need to know where and which structures are being built within the county borders.

Currently, I am at the point in this process of generating an inspection waiver that would allow you as the property owner to build your structure up to 800 square feet. A fairly good sized building that could serve a variety of purposes.

While there are a number of reasons why expanding the size of outbuildings subject to the inspection process is important, I am particularly interested in its potential to spur job growth. For example, a structure of this size could be used by someone to start a home business. With the official unemployment rate here in the County now estimated to be between 12 to 13 percent, we must begin to adapt to changing conditions. More and more of the residents in Grays Harbor have given up on the traditional model in our labor market driven by our industrial base. Many are beginning to re-discover the ability to become self employed. I am very optimistic that the spirit of entrepreneurship can be renewed again and I want to do what I can at the county level to help. A small change in the regulatory way we have become accustomed to, in favor of the property owner - is a good first start.

What comes next? Coming up on Feb. 3, the Board of County Commissioners will be having a hearing to allow the public to weigh in on this issue. I do encourage those with an interest in this subject to attend. The hearing will be at 2 p.m in the commissioner’s meeting room.

Following the hearing, I and my fellow Commissioners will be voting on whether to allow the new change or not.

Working together, individual property owners along with the County Commissioners and various County Departments can create an easier and more efficient process.

Wes Cormier is a county commissioner representing East County and is in his first term.

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