Monteagle Planning Grapples with Building Permit Expiration

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the May 2 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission revisited an issue they have grappled with for nearly a year, amending Zoning Ordinance 1203 to clearly define when a building permit expires. The commission also discussed a recommended ordinance change voted down by the Monteagle Council which would have allowed self-storage businesses only on C-3 commercial property.

Ordinance 1203 requires a building permit owner demonstrate “substantial progress” on a project in six months; allows for one six-month extension; and declares the permit void if there is no substantial progress in 12 months. Commission Chair Ed Provost said the amendment to the ordinance attempted to “put some teeth” in the rule by defining “substantial progress” as “work equal to 10 percent of the cost of construction as stated by the value on the building permit.”

Commissioner Katie Trahan argued basing progress on building material costs was highly “subjective” and suggested the ordinance should require certain “milestones” be met. She also proposed the allowance for “weather delays” include snow and wind.

Building codes inspector Travis Lawyer said the building permit value was based on material cost and a “rough price” on construction costs supplied by the contractor. “We’re just taking their word on it,” Lawyer stressed. He noted the figure could vary widely, for example, if the project was a self-build.

The commission discussed requiring projects to include a Standard of Values document that contained a breakdown of the value and cost of work items required on a job and a roadmap of the progress of the project from inception until its completion date.

“That might be a better description than the 10 percent,” said Mayor Greg Maloof.

Lawyer questioned whether “grading and excavation” counted toward “substantial progress.”

Resident Billy Best said the International Building Code (IBC) no longer defined “substantial progress,” but the IBC formerly listed pouring a footer as a progress milestone, but not grading and excavation. “Someone could push a pile of dirt around for four years,” Best observed.

“We have someone pushing a pile of dirt around now,” Provost said. Provost will incorporate the comments and recommendations into the ordinance and resubmit it for review next month.

Maloof introduced the discussion on the zoning ordinance change voted down by the council. Explaining his objections, Alderman Nate Wilson said the rule “seemed incongruous” since the commission recently approved an application for a self-storage business on C-2 commercial property. Wilson also questioned the reason for no longer allowing self-storage businesses in C-2.

Town planner Annya Shalun said the proposed self-storage project on C-2 property would not go forward, as the applicant did not purchase the property. Responding to why self-storage should only be allowed in C-3, Maloof said, “Crowding C-2 with more self-storage doesn’t maintain the look and demeanor of Monteagle.”

Wilson said it would have been helpful if a commission representative had explained the situation at the council meeting. The commission voted to resubmit the proposed zoning change to the council. A commission representative will attend the next council meeting to explain the reason for the change.

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