Which construction and remodeling projects need a permit and which ones do not?
That question became the pivotal point of sometimes heated discussion at a recent meeting of the Mills County Board of Supervisors.
Approximately 20 citizens were in attendance at the supervisors’ June 29 meeting to discuss the county’s building permit requirements and fee structure.
Mills County residents Jack May and Don Brantz, a former county supervisor, presented the board with petitions containing the signatures of 446 citizens. The petition requested that the county repeal all permit requirements and fees, except for driveways, wells and septic systems. May, Brantz and some members of the audience complained that the permit process was creating a hardship for building contractors and subcontractors and that the fees being charged for the permits are excessive.
“The permit process isn’t fair,” May said. “We’ve lost the freedom for a person to make improvements on private property without government intervention.
“We vote the board in to represent us and they do a good job. I’m not after anyone’s job, I just want to get on with good Iowa living.”
Brantz accused all three members of the board supervisors - Joe Blankenship, Richard Crouch and Ron Kohn - of abandoning the ideals of the Republican Party. The three are all members of the Republican Party.
“Check with the Republican Party. Listen to the people. You have the people mad at you,” Brantz said. “Let’s get some guts and have some individual thinking.”
Kohn told the audience that the Mills County Building and Zoning Department, housed at the Mills County Engineer’s Office in Glenwood, evolved from the establishment of the county’s comprehensive plan that was developed to serve as a guideline for county growth. Kohn pointed out that over 150 Mills County residents, from various backgrounds, took part in the development of the plan that took months to develop and finalize.
Fellow county supervisor Joe Blankenship said many Mills County residents are misinformed about the building permit requirements.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there for what requires a permit,” Blankenship said.
Darrin Whatcott, a representative from JAS Consulting, the private firm contracted by the county to manage the Building and Zoning Department, addressed and clarified some of the concerns citizens have about the permit process.
Most maintenance and replacement projects don’t require a permit - things like painting, routine electrical repair, drywall replacement, tiling, the replacement of parts for appliances, plumbing work to clear stoppages or repair leaks, installation of carpeting, cabinets and other finish work.
Some of the other exempted projects include the construction of fences not over 6 feet tall, retaining walls not over 4 feet tall, cloth structures for nursery or agricultural purposes, moveable fixtures and playground equipment.
A pamphlet available at the Building and Zoning Department office identifies which projects do require a permit and which ones are exempt.
Not everyone who attended the June 29 meeting is opposed to the permit process.
Randy McCunn, a co-owner of A&M Greenpower in western Mills County, said his new business and Mills County is better off for having the permit process in place. “I had somebody looking out for my interests. I have a better building because of this (permit process),” McCunn said. “It was a joke in the A&M company that we should have built here two years ago (before the permit process was established) because we could have built anything we wanted.”