Sunday, March 10, 2013

Regulations without Enforcement

At this past week’s Council meeting, it was revealed that a home builder had built a house in such a way to contravene the town’s building regulations.  The house was built closer to the road than is allowed by the current code.   This situation was discovered only AFTER the house was built. 

So the Town was, once again, left in a pickle prompting Mayor Best asked: “How did we get to where we got?” Unfortunately, that fundamental question was never addressed at Tuesday’s meeting – it needs to be.   (listen to the PACKET’s March 5 Meeting Coverage starting at the 15 minute mark )

There are essentially three choices when a breach of the regulations is discovered. 1) Get the home owner to bring the build into spec.  2) Ignore the contravention or  3) Change the regulations.  Unfortunately this latest situation is not an isolated occurrence. It has happened before and from previous experience the Town’s attempts to force builders to fix their contraventions (option 1) have amounted to no more than a headache for Council and Town staff alike. So, option 2 has been followed by default.  

On this most recent contravention, Council has taken a different tact – they have gone to option 3 and changed the regulations to allow for the build.  As Councillor Bailey pointed out, this is backwards thinking, and I would argue that such a move undermines our Town's regulation system.   

To truly solve the problem we need to learn from this and previous incidents.  Clarenville needs to put a system in place to monitor all builds before and during the build process (this is a potential role for an Enforcement Officer, should the Town choose to hire one and baring that, it is a role for Public Works).  Even with 60 or so builds a year, establishing a building monitoring process should be within the Town’s capacity.  We need to learn from this latest incident and stop these “oops” situations from happening again.    Unfortunately, it was not at all clear from the meeting that this experience has motivated Council to put a better monitoring process in place.  

Let’s face it, if we can’t monitor construction in our own town, then our building construction regulations become moot.   As we get larger and as new residents expect more, we need to put the processes in place to ensure our growing community’s best interests are looked after.  

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