Wright City could add fine for building without permit

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

Wright City leaders are discussing fining property owners who build on their properties without a permit, after one homeowner’s improvements became a source of contention.

The issue began when the city learned homeowner Justin Crady had built a swimming pool, retaining wall and hot tub on his property without securing any building permits. City Administrator Jim Schuchmann directed Crady to seek the permits retroactively, including a special ruling for the retaining wall, which was built too close to his neighbor’s property line.

Schuchmann said Crady must hire a surveyor to accurately map the improvements on his property to receive the building permits.

Crady said he is trying to make things right, but interacting with the city has been frustrating. He said he didn’t know he needed permits to do the work.

“I’m very discouraged with the city (messing) with people trying to come in and make things nice. ... I think it’s a little ridiculous,” said Crady.

But these situations can also create frustrating extra work and expense for city staff, Schuchmann said. Tracking down residents and getting them through the proper permitting process consumes a lot of staff time, and costs extra money for things like certified mailings.

It’s a problem that’s too frequent to ignore, Schuchmann said.

“If all we’re doing is just turning around and saying, ‘OK, the deck should have cost you $50 for the permit,’ we’re actually losing money because the people didn’t follow the ordinance and didn’t do it correctly,” Schuchmann said.

He proposed adding a fine for residents who build without a permit to help pay for staff time and certified postage involved in righting the mistake. He suggested that doubling the cost of the building permit could be an appropriate fine.

“The person that’s doing it correctly paid $50, and it didn’t really damage the city. The person who violated the rules paid $50, and they cost the city a lot of money because they didn’t follow the rules,” Schuchmann said.

Ward 2 Alderman Nathan Rohr agreed that action needs to be taken on permit violations. He said the amount of the fine needs to be based on the project size, matching how the city already charges for permits.

“We’re only getting bigger. ... There’s younger folks that don’t know the real rules. We’re going to have to come up with something,” Rohr commented.

Ward 1 Alderman Michelle Heiliger said the city needs to find more ways to make residents aware of permit requirements, so the rules are easier to enforce. Aldermen discussed adding that information to city billings and newsletters.

No official action was taken on the proposed fines, but the issue will likely come before the board again.

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