Builders hammer gripes to county |

Builders hammer gripes to county

Sarah Gonser

Hoping to find solutions, or a least bring issues to the table, building contractors called a meeting Thursday with El Dorado County Building Department and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency representatives.

Discussions concerned what the contractors perceive as a change in county policy concerning building security deposits, plan check procedures and site reviews.

“We’re in a situation now where we can sell homes. We need help, not hindrance,” said Bob Hedley of Aspen Realty, concerning the hike in security deposits. “What’s the point in hindering local builders from doing their jobs and making a living?”

In a 1993 Memorandum of Understanding with El Dorado County, TRPA requested that the county building department collect building deposits in the same way TRPA had done since 1986. Contractors at the meeting Thursday suggested that the county has since changed the manner in which the fees are calculated, dramatically increasing the deposit in many cases. But county representatives disagreed, saying the fees are calculated on a one-by-one basis, depending on the size of the project.

“I think the misconception here is that everyone thinks $2,500 is the accepted single-dwelling deposit, every single time,” said Larry Lohman, operations supervisor for the county building department. “Well, TRPA does take a $2,500 deposit on a basic house, but there are also different, larger houses being built and we will calculate the deposit on those accordingly.”

During the 1998 building season, the county mandated the use of a cost estimate worksheet for large jobs or projects involving extra work such as retaining walls or slope stabilization. As a result, the contractor security deposit increased significantly. Contractors say the change was made without their knowledge.

“This is yet another situation where you made this decision without notification to the builders,” said contractor John Adamski. “We need to know from year to year what you will be changing so that we can plan accordingly.”

County representatives and contractors decided to further discuss the issue after reviewing TRPA policy.

Contractors also discussed plan check procedures. Currently, for lack of staff at the county building department, plans are sent to Placerville for review and approval. Contractors say this is both time-consuming and unnecessary.

“I think it’s important that our area be allowed to do our own plan checking,” said contractor Drake Niven. “I know it’s a budgetary issue but for us it’s not just about our small construction window, it’s also about economics. In the time it takes for our plans to be approved and the necessary changes made, the whole economy could turn around.”

Discussions also touched on the new $125 fee for site reviews but no conclusions were reached.

“We’re onto a good start,” said District Five County Supervisor Dave Solaro. “Obviously we haven’t solved many of the issues but it’s a really good start.”

El Dorado County building department representatives and the building contractors agreed to meet again, perhaps even on a monthly basis, to further discuss the issues.

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