County learns from mistakes
December 3, 2002
This article responds to the numerous letters and inquiries that the members of the Board of County Commissioners and County staff have received, which express concerns over the impact of Question 4 on local businesses. Many of these concerns were expressed throughout the debate on the question prior to the election.
Regardless, Douglas County voters did approve the question, and therefore, we will need to accommodate the expressed desire of the voters. As you know, litigation over the legality of the initiative is now pending before the Nevada Supreme Court, and we too are awaiting their decision. In addition, the County is currently under a restraining order to not implement the voter-approved initiative. Essentially, this means that the County is restricted from limiting the number of dwelling units built annually to 280.
Consequently, since the passage of the initiative, the County has seen a dramatic increase in the number of building permit applications for housing. In addition, the Building Department also continues to receive applications for other permits, such as commercial buildings, home additions, out buildings, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and garages. Annually, the department processes approximately 1,600 to 1,700 total permits.
A significant increase in the number of housing permit applications received began on Oct. 21, 2002. Prior to this date (Oct. 1 through Oct. 18), the County received 42 permit applications for housing and processed 38 permits.
In September 2002, we received 40 applications and processed 36 permits for dwelling units.
Between Oct. 21 and Nov. 22 of this year, the County received applications for building permits for 353 housing units (dwelling units). During this time (22 work days), a total of 51 permits were issued by the Building Department. Accordingly, over this period of time, an average of 2.5 permits were processed during each workday. A majority of the staff was involved in performing intakes on the 353 submittals.
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Also, during this time frame, there were a tremendous number of telephone calls and counter questions that consumed large amounts of staff time. However, despite these time consuming functions, staff was still able to maintain the 2.5 per day average of permit approvals.
As of Nov. 22, the County had permit applications for 330 dwelling units. The number of submittals has appeared to taper off over the past week, allowing staff to approve an average of six building permit applications per day. Therefore, the processing of these permits is currently at or above our normal rate of activity. Steps have been taken to increase the number of permits being processed, however, given the dramatic increase in applications received by the department since the end of October, the normal time frame of 7 to 10 days will not be consistently met.
In comparison, during October 2001, 44 permits for dwelling units were issued, and another 31 permits for dwelling units were issued in November 2001.
As you can see, during the same time period this year, more permits have been issued. Based on the number of permits issued, there will be more potential housing-related building activity this year than last year.
Because of the substantial increase in the number of permit applications received, the Building Department is generally processing permits in the order received. After much discussion, this method seems to be the most “fair and equitable” way to process the pending applications. A review of the permit applications received and processed revealed that no single builder is dominating the process. Of the 353 applications received by the County, 11 builders submitted 230 permit applications for four or more dwelling units. Builders who are requesting less than four permits submitted the remaining 123 permit applications. Of the 51 permits issued, only 28 have gone to these 11 builders, with 23 permits going to other builders or owner/builders.
As you may expect, the County has received a number of requests from builders to move their permit application up in the process. The reasons for these requests are similar: there is a current or potential financial hardship for the builder; they need to keep their employees working; or there is a hardship placed on the property or individual lot owner.
Put simply, each person is concerned about their financial investments, for commitments made to future homeowners, for loan commitments, for the ability to secure subcontractors for work, and for potential impacts on work schedules. These concerns relate directly to the real and future economic hardships that you have identified.
If the 280-unit cap is imposed, the economic losses to you and other builders and related businesses may well become reality.
We understand that the concerns you have expressed regarding the future potential impact of Question 4 are valid and shared. However, in the short-term, the fate of this issue lies in the Courts. In the future, it could potentially be placed again in the hands of Douglas County voters.