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Zoning fees

Published April 12. 2010 05:00PM

Among the most ridiculous and begrudging charges when doing a home-improvement project are permit and inspection fees. The Uniform Construction Code, while filled with good intent, significantly compounds the problem.

Lehighton Borough Manager John C. Wagner is working on a solution to the fee dilemma for at least minor projects.

He will be providing the borough council with a revised fee schedule which will impose lower fees for such things as porch replacements.

In every municipality, construction and home improvement regulations vary. Some towns require permits and inspections for roof inspections and others don't. In most communities you must pay for a permit, have permit officials inspect the project, and pay for inspections from Uniform Construction Code specialists.

Many towns require contractors to register with them before doing any work.

Such confusion can unintentionally place residents in danger of violating the rules.

At a recent meeting of Lehighton Borough Council, council member Melissa Ebbert said the last thing the borough wants to do is deter people from making improvements to their property. The UCC does that with its outlandish fee and inspection requirements.

It is obvious why UCC rules were adopted. One only has to watch the TV show "Holmes on Homes" to see the shoddy work some contractors do. Also, it isn't fair to your neighbors if you do a project that isn't in compliance with borough regulations and safety codes.

Unfortunately, the adoption of UCC regulations forced compliance from one extreme to another; from laymen serving as building inspectors in some towns to professional engineers now doing the inspections.

There has to be a happy - and more affordable - medium.

State and federal lawmakers should rethink UCC regulations so that people aren't discouraged from improving their homes and engaging in new projects.

The trickle down effect of over-regulation is that the economy is hurt when people are discouraged from improving their properties. It hurts local stores who sell products that are used for the projects. It brings down property values because the inspection fees make improvements unaffordable to do upgrades.

Wagner and Lehighton Borough Council deserve to be applauded for taking the interest of their citizens into consideration and for working to encourage home improvements. Lowering permit fees is one way to induce more homeowners to have the will and the want to upgrade their properties.

Their efforts create a win-win situation for everybody.


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