Just Waiting On The City

Zachary Urban of the Wheat Ridge City Council

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While building codes and standards have structured our built environment for thousands of years, the concept of a “building permit” can be traced back to the year 1189 when Henry Fitz-Elwyne, the first Mayor of London wrote “Assize of Buildings.” This document outlined the roles and responsibilities of an elected body of aldermen (city council members) tasked with “the allaying of the contentions that at times arise between neighbors in the city touching boundaries made, or to be made, between their lands, and other things; to the end that, according to the provisions then made and ordained, such contentions might be allayed.”

So basically, the Mayor of London, not wanting to be the bad guy, probably sick of settling disputes amongst neighbors, decided to delegate this onerous task to a 12-member elected body. In this scenario, the mayor retained the power to approve a building permit or “assize” while the aldermen were unavailable during harvest time or out-of-town attending a neighboring fair (the Arvada Harvest Festival?).

Even from the earliest days of municipal government it was a well-known fact that nobody wanted to wait around for the government to make a decision. How long after this did a stonemason utter the phrase, “Just waiting on the city”?

Fast forward to earlier this month, when a Wheat Ridge resident expressed his woes in obtaining a building permit in a Facebook post to the Wheat Ridge Neighbors group. The homeowner alluded to his contractor saying something along the lines of, “Just waiting on the city,” suggesting the contractor had been waiting on the city for six months or longer.

After a few emails to the city to clarify the permit status I learned – surprise, surprise, surprise – the contractor hadn’t submitted the permit application until just a few weeks ago, and was not licensed in the City of Wheat Ridge. This was all news to the homeowner who had taken the tired phrase “Just waiting on the city” as gospel.

Just because the City of Wheat Ridge is responsible for issuing permits and licenses, this shouldn’t preclude homeowners from asking smart questions of their contractor. What exactly is the status of the permit application? When was it submitted? Are you a currently licensed contractor in the City of Wheat Ridge? What kind of work on my home or business requires a permit?

Here is sample of those projects which require permitting by the City of Wheat Ridge: new buildings, room additions, demolition, roofing, hot tubs and swimming pools, retaining walls, signs, exterior irrigation systems, interior remodels, electrical service changes, air conditioners, furnace and water heater replacement, window replacement, and siding.

If you are uncertain as to whether a permit is needed, contact Building and Inspection Services at 303-235-2855, or visit: www.ci.wheatridge.co.us While there are certainly times and circumstances in which the city is less than expeditious, it helps to know this is time spent in service of the broader community, to ensure the health and safety of the building occupants, as well as an attempt to allay contentions amongst neighbors, both today and a thousand years from now.

Contact Wheat Ridge Council District II representative Zachary Urban at zurban@ci.wheatridge.co.us or 720-252-5930.

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