From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 33 - November 9, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Building without permit will cost you

by Janet Montgomery

Sublette County to impose voluntary fine in lieu of prosecution for building without a permit.

Two Sublette County homeowners are to be penalized for building homes on their property without obtaining proper permits.

Sublette County Planner Bart Myers told the Sublette County Commissioners Wednesday, Nov. 1, that the Sublette County Assessor’s Office had discovered two homes in the county that had not acquired building permits for the houses on their properties.

Myers said later, “(The assessors) are kind of the eyes out there,” as the department discovered the two homes.

“I’ve been speaking with the county attorney, and I don’t know how aggressive we want to be,” Myers asked. “Do we just want to issue some the after-the-fact permit or do we want to tie some kind of penalty?”

While Commissioner Bill Cramer queried about the county regulations, Myers noted a point of clarification.

“We don’t have the ability to fine anyone,” he said, “only a judge can issue a fine.”

Myers recommended, “Issuing the after-the-fact permit and then ... seek some kind of voluntary penalty that they voluntarily pay in lieu of prosecution,” he said. “In my experience that’s worked pretty well. ... That’s kind of new ground and I don’t know if we want to go there.”

While Myers said there was no doubt that an after-the-fact permit would have to be issued, and hopefully the buildings fully comply with the county regulations, he said. “The bigger question to me is do we want to try to slap someone’s wrist ... ?”

“Your whole department is kind of riding on ... what we do here,” Commissioner John Linn said. “If we avoid this, that’s going completely in the opposite direction of what a lot of people want to see ...

“If we’re not going to mind the store here, what good is it?”

Myers recommended a $1,500 to $2,000 penalty for the violators, to which Linn suggested adding expenses.

Monday Myers said he contacted one of the homeowners and had a letter going out to the other . Myers said he set a flat $2,000 voluntary penalty in lieu of prosecution.

“We want the mentality not to be that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission,” he said.

In other business, Myers brought zoning issues to the commission regarding guesthouses and rezoning the Pinedale airport.

In discussion on proposed regulations for guesthouses, Myers said, “What I’ve been thinking on is that we tie it to lot size.”

He said that for two-acre lots or less, an 800-foot guesthouse would be allowed, but that landowners with 30 acres would be able to have largef guesthouses.

Myers suggested that for every full acre over two, the landowner could make the guesthouse another 25-square-feet larger to a maximum of 1,200 feet.

Myers said there was also talk about allowing rental.

“I’m not sure that that’s the end-all that everyone thinks it is,” he said.

Changing the regulations to allow for renting guesthouses needs a lot of thought.

“Right now it would be serving a need,” Commissioner Betty Fear said, “but ...”

“I think it probably has the effect of driving up real estate prices rather than serving any kind of niche for affordable housing,” Myers said.

Fear said, “Let’s call it what it is. If it’s a guesthouse, it’s a guesthouse.”

“If we want to allow rental, I think we do have to require some kind of permit where we get a chance to review those things,” Myers said.

Myers suggested moving forward with the size of the guesthouse.

Myers also told the commissioners that, due to the zoning at the Pinedale airport and the new hangars, the planning and zoning would be looking at numerous variances to allow hangar buildings taller than 35 feet.

“With the airport expanding, the runway getting longer, the 35-foot height on hangars doesn’t work,” Myers said. “Rather than processing a bunch a variances for ... the bigger hangars they want to build, I suggest they pursue a zone change to heavy industrial.”

Myers said the change would let the height go up to 50 feet.

The subdivision across the highway is zoned heavy industrial as well, “so it’s not like it’s an isolated enclave out there,” Myers said.

Myers thought that the Town of Pinedale gave permission on Monday for the zone change, which would then come to the county to change as well.

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