Angora fire permit center’s hazy future |

Angora fire permit center’s hazy future

Noel Stack, city editor, (Placerville) Mountain Democrat

When the Angora fire struck last summer more than 250 homes burned to the ground.

Taking immediate action to help victims, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors waived building permit fees within parameters, created programs to clean up debris and hazardous trees and asked staff to fast track permits.

One action, however, has moved at a slower pace and the debate of whether or not fire victims would benefit from a permit center exclusively for them continues. In early November Supervisor Norma Santiago brought the issue to her fellow supervisors. on Tuesday, the issue is back on the table for more discussion.

‘She envisioned everyone teaming up in one central place,’ said Mike Applegarth with the El Dorado County Chief Administrative Office of Santiago’s idea.

If approved, the permit center would operate through Dec. 28.

Applegarth presented an update on Angora Fire activities, including the evolution of the permit center, earlier this week at the breakfast meeting of the Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County. If the supervisors approve a permit center the state and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency would cover the costs -an estimated $350,000.

The county will see about $195,600 in revenue from Angora home builders who are expanding their building plans, Applegarth said. The fee waiver approved by the board covers rebuilding the original square footage, but builders must pay the fees on any expansions.

Citing the slowdown in permit activity and the fact that as of the end of December 2007, there were 153 Angora permits already in the pipeline (71 of those have already been issued), taxpayers group member Art Marinaccio said the county should forget the idea of a permit center.

‘There really isn’t a problem to fix,’ Marinaccio said. ‘There isn’t a need for it.’

Santiago has argued that her constituents became lost in the current permit process, hearing different things from different agencies involved in the building in the Tahoe Basin.

Her proposal includes hiring a project manager for the permit center who would act as an ombudsman to help homeowners through the process, Applegarth said. The center would also have three building inspectors, one development technician and one development aide exclusively working on Angora permits.

Because of caveats put on the funding, the county would receive from the state for these activities the proposed center’s employees would have to be either contract employees or county employees working overtime on these projects, Applegarth explained.

‘It really doesn’t make sense, but that’s the box the state puts us in,’ he said.

With the state budget crisis making more headlines these days, Supervisor Jack Sweeney said at the Jan. 29 board meeting that even though the state has promised funding for the permit center, $262,500, ‘Our friends in Sacramento will cut everything they can point their finger at.’

The board needs more information about the operations in the Building Division before it can make a decision on opening another permit center, Sweeney said.

Because of the lateness of the day, the supervisors continued their discussion of the Angora permit center to the Feb. 5 meeting.

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