Working without a building permit will cost you.
That was the message heard Monday by those who attended a packed meeting of the Columbia County Construction Board.
Paul Scarbary, the county’s newly appointed Development Services director, informed the gathered builders and developers in attendance that a new late permit fee of $500 would be enforced on those who drove a nail before applying for a building permit.
“We have an issue with quite a number of people starting work without acquiring a permit first,” he said. “This has been a problem that code enforcement has run across numerous times.”
The new $500 late permit fee was approved Oct. 15 by the Columbia County Commission.
Dana Rhodes, the county’s Code Enforcement manager, said the fee had already been enforced several times in the past month. Rhodes also reminded those at the meeting that sub-contractors will need to pay an occupational tax before being allowed on a worksite. Rhodes emphasized that builders need to make sure all permits and paperwork were in order before work begins to avoid expensive delays.
Officials also went over some of the many changes to county building codes that will take effect Jan. 1.
Scarbary said there will be a short grace period while officials and builders become accustomed to the new regulations, but that would end April 1.
Builder Jim Bartley said the new emphasis on enforcement was welcomed, but he wants the county to do more to crack down on rental property owners and others who hire sub-contractors and renovate homes with proper licenses and permits.
“You’ve got people in this room who make their living off of renovations and they are not getting the work,” he said. “It is going to unlicensed contractors. That violates state law.”
Scarbary said the county would be enforcing those laws, but there were limits to how many worksites an inspector could see in a given day. He said the county had to rely on licensed contractors and builders reporting improper work sites.
Board member Bart Hillman said it was the building community’s responsibility to ensure regulations were being followed across the board.
“We’ve got to police ourselves,” he said.