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Re: [TowerTalk] Tower Permits

Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Tower Permits
From: Jim Lux <>
Date: Sun, 23 Mar 2008 10:03:54 -0700
List-post: <">> wrote:
> In a message dated 3/23/2008 5:01:21 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
> writes:
>>  Consider yourself lucky, but not necessarily wise. My tower  cost $3000 to 
> install with crane services, concrete pumping,  hole  digging, and other 
> expenses, and I wasn't willing to roll the dice and take a  chance of loosing 
> that 
> investment. If you try and ignore city codes and they  catch you, they can 
> make you remove it which is also costly, and you can bet  it would be more 
> difficult to get the permit after trying to avoid the codes  the first time. 
>     My experience has been that you can retro a  permit IF you've constructed 
> it per the factory/PE specs. Document everything  (pictures of the depth of 
> the hole, rebar cage, invoices for rebar,  concrete, etc.) and submit it with 
> your permit application. 
>     The fine is typically a small percentage  (e.g. 1 or 2%) of the value of 
> the project so in this case the fine would  be $30 to $60. 

Around here (southern California), that would generally not be the case. 
  There have been too many folks building or destroying something they 
shouldn't have, and claiming "oops", figuring that it's just part of the 
cost of business to pay the fine. (What's a 1% fine against a 20% 
appreciation in real estate value?).  As a result, the fees for 
"retroactive permits" have shot up.  At the very least, you're going to 
be stuck for twice the permit cost (and here in Thousand Oaks, that's 
$750-800 for a ham tower, which is discounted from the non-ham price of 
$1400-$2500).  And, if you didn't get the grading permit (required for 
movement of more than X cubic yards), you'll get stuck for that, too. 
(too many people making ill-advised changes in their drainage and 
slopes, causing erosion on adjacent parcels, overloading storm drains, 
or causing land slips)

They've also put in "you're at fault regardless" sorts of rules because 
of developers with inconveniently placed oak trees that were 
"inadvertently damaged and killed by hooligans hotwiring the bulldozer 
in the dead of night", or even, blatant violation of the protective zone 
and willing offers to pay for "mitigation": usually, plant 5 new trees 
to replace the old one.. but at least the ground is now cleared for that 
parking lot, because the new trees can go somewhere else. (In a city 
called Thousand Oaks, they take their oak trees seriously)

They've also gotten very, very picky about things that cannot be 
visually inspected for retro permits.  It's one thing to do electrical 
work and the guy can see the new breakers, the new receptacles, etc.. 
It's another when he can't see the actual footings and rebar. They can, 
and do make people dig up their backyard to show that the footing under 
the patio cover is what it should be.

By and large, most of the permitting activities are based on reasonable 
common sense.  It's just that they've gotten very expensive, because the 
money to run the city/county has to come from somewhere, and building 
permits are a nice place to get it. (not only that, but the city's cost 
to actually process and issue the permit is non-negligible, and no 
longer is it subsidized out of the general fund, so the permits pay the 
entire operating budget of the planning and building &safety 
departments)  In a generally rising real estate market, someone getting 
a permit to put in a $50K landscaping improvement on the house that they 
bought for $400K that will now appraise at $700K isn't going to whine 
too much about the $2K permit/inspection cost.

>>  Your displeased neighbors or another ham that doesn't like  you will 
> eventually rat on you. I don't consider this good advice to  follow
>         This is about the only way  you can get busted - that is if a 
> neighbor complains to the building department. 

Around here, we have code compliance folks who drive around and look for 
signs of construction. They have a GIS generated map (soon to be real 
time in the car/truck, like Google Earth) that shows where all the 
permitted work is, so if they see something, and it's not on the map, 
you're cooked.  Last year, the hot button for code compliance, was RVs 
parked for more than 72 hours in one place visible from the street.

And, as far as someone "dropping a dime" goes, it's real estate sales 
folks who are most likely.  "Gosh, I know you'd like to sell that house 
at the (unrealistically high) price I thought we could get for it, but 
that guy down the street is doing X and that's depressing the market. 
Too bad you're upside down on the loan."

so.... asking forgiveness rather than permission *is* an ok strategy in 
some places, but in others, it's a real gamble, with fairly serious 
down-side consequences if you wind up in the wrong sort of situation.

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