Valley Council considers giving builders extra time

Proposal extends validity of applications, permits

Spokane Valley is considering dramatically increasing the amount of time developers and builders have to complete projects. Depending on when an application was made, a builder could have up to eight years to finish a project.

The city’s building code was last updated in 2006, Community Development Director John Hohman told the Spokane Valley City Council on Tuesday. “The code is somewhat out of date,” he said.

The major changes include the length of time building applications and permits are valid. “We want to make sure they’re able to move forward with their project at any time within a reasonable time period,” Hohman said.

The new time limits would be in line with the building code cycle. The state updates the building code every three years and cities are required to adopt it. Under current rules a building application is valid for six months. There can be written requests for extensions every three months but applications have to show justifiable cause for the delay and there is no guarantee the extension will be granted.

The proposed rules would allow a building application to be valid for at least one year with an extension of up to two years granted depending on when in the code cycle the application is made.

Similar changes would be made for building permits. Under current rules a permit is valid for a maximum of two years and if work is not started within sixth months of the date the permit is granted, it is no longer valid. Work on the project must be complete at the end of two years or the permit is not valid, Hohman said, and extensions are not allowed.

The new rules proposed would allow a building permit to be valid for two years after the first required inspection and the permit can be extended up to three more years depending on when in the code cycle the application is made. Builders would also have up to two years to start work after a permit is issued.

The city has been having problems lately with builders not being able to begin construction within the current time limits after getting a permit, Hohman said.

The council greeted the proposed changes with approval. “As I read through this I thought common sense prevailed,” said councilman Chuck Hafner.

Councilman Dean Grafos said he particularly liked the fact that builders would have two years after the first required inspection. “I think this is a win/win situation,” he said. “I assume this would make us the least restrictive in the county.”

Hohman confirmed that the proposed new rules would be the most lenient in the area, but said that Spokane County and other jurisdictions are considering similar changes.

“I think this is a common sense approach to a problem we’ve had for some time,” said Mayor Tom Towey.

In other business, the council agreed by consensus to have city staff apply for a Federal Highways Bridge Program grant to pay to replace the decking on the Sullivan railroad overpass bridge near Marietta Avenue that carries southbound traffic. The city recently repaired the expansion joints on the bridge but the decking needs to be replaced, said senior capital projects engineer Steve Worley. “It’s coming off,” he said.

The project is estimated to cost $250,000 and the city would have to pay $50,000 in matching funds if it gets the grant, Worley said. The bridge was built in 1967 and was last resurfaced in 1983.

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