An Alert Frontburnervian with knowledge of how permits are issued at City Hall has a problem with how staff is handling construction and development permits in this time of shelter-in-place. The reader says the same stuff cleared four weeks ago is being pushed through today—everything from truly essential jobs like restoring electricity or water to things that could wait, like building a yoga studio or adding a third bedroom. The result of the latter is unnecessary risk for COVID-19 spread.
The source says the city is “doing a lot of good reviewing and permitting what needs to be done. But swimming pools, signs, office remodels, and additions to big homes kind of feels like putting people’s health and lives at risk.”
I asked the city whether it is restricting the types of construction permits it grants during the pandemic. A spokesperson sent this statement:
We continue to issue building permits to support the essential construction industry. That is not the same thing as giving owners/operators the approval to operate a business that goes against the latest County and City orders.
Well, OK. In other words, as I read that, because the county deemed construction to be an essential business—and the city has followed suit—all construction jobs are being approved.
I asked County Judge Clay Jenkins for his interpretation. First of all, he said, construction was deemed essential because it’s in Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidance about workers that are essential to critical infrastructure viability.
“Are there construction jobs that can and should wait until this is over? Yes there are,” he said. “What I would encourage people to remember is it’s one thing if you’re in the middle of remodeling your kitchen and you don’t have water and electricity and now you’re home. We want to get you the things you need. But do we really want to finish everything and have a group of various craftsmen tracking in and out of your home?”
Jenkins says they’ve yet to figure out a way to regulate these sorts of unnecessary uses.
“Just because you can have construction doesn’t mean you should have construction, and people should use their best judgment,” he said. “It’s something we’ll continue to look at to make sure that if there are ways we can cut it back some, we will.”