Collinsville Building Permit Analysis – lies, lies, lies…

The City of Collinsville presumes to impose a building permit requirement for any improvement to your home in excess of $500. I had the pleasure of having one of the Code Enforcers, Officer Wasser, stop by my home when I was having siding replaced. She told me that I needed a building permit since the work was in excess of $500. The only thing Wasser saw was siding partially removed from my home and boxes of siding in the driveway, which I doubt she could positively identify as siding. She did not know what the siding cost, if anything. She did not know if I was putting the siding on myself or having it done by a contractor. She just “assumed” that the value of the materials resulted in an “improvement” to my home in excess of $500, and therefore necessitated a building permit. I asked Wasser to cite the Code provision to which she was referring and she said she could not recall it specifically. I informed her that I would review the Code and if I felt it necessary, would procure the permit. I told her that based on my understanding of the Code and how it is often misapplied, I would not be getting a permit.

I then went on to research the Code, with particular attention to the $500 improvement reference. What I found was this provision. Let’s look at the wording:
Chapter 15.04 – Construction Codes Adopted
Sec. 15.04.080. – Minor repairs; requirements
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require a permit, fee, inspection certificate or approval of any minor repairs made at a cost of less than five hundred dollars ($500.00), but the fire prevention, construction, safety, installation, materials and other standards of the technical codes adopted in Section 15.04.010 shall apply to such work.

Let’s break it down:
Minor repairs – The code does not define repairs, but the dictionary does.
re·pair
1 [ri-pair]
verb (used with object)
1. to restore to a good or sound condition after decay or damage; mend: to repair a motor.
2. to restore or renew by any process of making good, strengthening, etc.: to repair one’s health by resting.
3. to remedy; make good; make up for: to repair damage; to repair a deficiency.
4. to make amends for; compensate: to repair a wrong done.

Repair does not include improvements, modifications, additions, or replacements. It means to bring something from a damaged state or an improved state. To replace one’s siding is not a repair. It is removing siding and replacing with new siding. Maybe I am tired of the color of my otherwise good siding and wish to replace it with siding of a different color. Is that a repair? Wasser apparently believes it is.

Reading further, the Code says:
“Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require a permit, fee, inspection certificate or approval of any minor repairs…”
This essentially says that nothing in the Code shall be construed (which means interpreted) to require a permit, fee…. It is curious wording, but it says what it means. The Code does not explicitly require a permit, fee… for minor repairs so you should not construe (imply) that it does. However, it goes on to say …“made at a cost of less than five hundred dollars ($500.00)” How does that change anything? Some people read this to mean, “Nothing in this chapter shall interpreted to require a permit, fee, inspection certificate or approval at a cost of less than $500, but if it is more than $500 I need a permit, fee…”

Another way to read this, as most people do, is “This chapter shall require a permit, fee, inspection certificate or approval of any minor repairs made at a cost of more than five hundred dollars ($500). But it does not say that. If that’s was what is meant it is what would be said. That is like saying, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to mean you are a blithering idiot if you do not read every sentence three times.” Does that mean that you are a blithering idiot if you do not read each sentence three times? Of course not. However, the City is a deceitful and tricky entity that knows it does not have the authority to do much of what it does without your ignorance and apathy to assist it in taking your money at every turn. The code is very adequate at requiring permits and fees for other things, and it is also specific. For instance:

Chapter 15.20 – MOVING BUILDINGS
Sec. 15.20.010. – Permit””Required.
No person shall remove, or cause to be removed, or aid or assist in removing any building into, along or across any street, alley or public ground in the City without first obtaining written permission from the City Manager or his designee, countersigned by the Mayor, and conforming to such restrictions and conditions as may be prescribed in such permit.

 – Put another way, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to not require a permit for any person who shall remove, or cause to be removed, or aid or assist in removing any building into, along or across any street, alley or public ground in the City without first obtaining written permission from the City Manager or his designee, countersigned by the Mayor, and conforming to such restrictions and conditions as may be prescribed.

Chapter 15.28 – DEMOLITION PERMITS
Sec. 15.28.010. – Permit required.
No person, firm, corporation or entity shall demolish any building in excess of two hundred (200) square feet without first securing a demolition permit.

– Put another way, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to not require a permit for any person, firm, corporation or entity who shall demolish any building in excess of two hundred (200) squre feet.

Sec. 15.40.050. – Development permit.
No person, firm, corporation or governmental body not exempted by State law shall commence any development in the SFHA without first obtaining a development permit from the City through its building inspector. The City through its building inspector shall not issue a development permit if the proposed development does not meet the requirements of this chapter.

– Put another way, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to not require a development permit of any person, firm, corporation or governmental body not exempted by State law to commence any development in the SFHA.”

Section 17.920 – TELECOMMUNICATION TOWERS
Sec. 17.920.050. – Authorization by administrative permit.
The placement of antennae and support structures are permitted in all nonresidential zoning districts only by administrative permit granted by the Zoning Administrator, as follows

– Put another way, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to not require an administrative permit for the placement of antennae and support structures in all nonresidential zoning districts.”

Are you beginning to see how saying something one way does not necessarily positively impose something else?

The point being, the Code could impose a permit and fee specifically, if they had the power to do so and could justify the arbitrary dollar limit of $500 on home repairs, and then, extend that to improvements as well. The City has been collecting these fees illegally and many people are happy to just pay it to avoid trouble. Sadly, that is the all-too-often commentary on people resisting tyrannical government.

Below are the applicable provisions of the Code and fees copied from Munilaw.com without modification:

Chapter 15.04 – Construction Codes Adopted
Sec. 15.04.080. – Minor repairs; requirements
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require a permit, fee, inspection certificate or approval of any minor repairs made at a cost of less than five hundred dollars ($500.00), but the fire prevention, construction, safety, installation, materials and other standards of the technical codes adopted in Section 15.04.010 shall apply to such work.

Chapter 15.20 – MOVING BUILDINGS
Sec. 15.20.010. – Permit””Required.
No person shall remove, or cause to be removed, or aid or assist in removing any building into, along or across any street, alley or public ground in the City without first obtaining written permission from the City Manager or his designee, countersigned by the Mayor, and conforming to such restrictions and conditions as may be prescribed in such permit.

Chapter 15.28 – DEMOLITION PERMITS
Sec. 15.28.010. – Permit required.
No person, firm, corporation or entity shall demolish any building in excess of two hundred (200) square feet without first securing a demolition permit.

Sec. 15.40.050. – Development permit.
No person, firm, corporation or governmental body not exempted by State law shall commence any development in the SFHA without first obtaining a development permit from the City through its building inspector. The City through its building inspector shall not issue a development permit if the proposed development does not meet the requirements of this chapter.

Section 17.920 – TELECOMMUNICATION TOWERS
Sec. 17.920.050. – Authorization by administrative permit.
The placement of antennae and support structures are permitted in all nonresidential zoning districts only by administrative permit granted by the Zoning Administrator, as follows:

Building permits
Sec. 4.01.010. – Established
(8) Building permits.
$50.00 limited building permit
$35.00 electrical permit 100 amp
$45.00 electrical permit 200 amp
$55.00 electrical permit 200 to 400 amp

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