By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Homeowners and nonprofits with unpermitted construction in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County have another six months to apply for permits without risk of penalties after a vote this week by the Board of Supervisors.
The board voted Tuesday to extend a six-month-old program that waives fees penalties for owners who report illegal construction and then get it approved through the county’s planning process.
The program does not apply to commercial structures.
County planning officials said they extended the deadline to give property owners more time to come forward, go through inspections and get permits. About 14 projects are now engaged in that process and officials said they hope more will come forward and make it through before the program’s new sunset date, now in July.
“I think it’s in everyone’s interest that these projects get inspected and that they’re ensured to be safe,” said Pete Parkinson, head of the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department.
Parkinson said his staff would be putting more effort into advertising the program among homeowners and small-scale builders, who are behind much of the unpermitted construction.
Since the program’s inception in August, the planning department has issued permits for 11 previously unpermitted projects. Many of those were small additions or improvements. County officials said the next batch could include larger remodels and outbuilding construction, which generally require more time to complete design paperwork.
Penalties waived over the last six months as part of the program amount to about $240,000. Officials said that was not lost revenue because the projects likely never would have been found had the owners not come forward.
The county has also continued to collect fees on illegal construction discovered through complaints and investigations. The county typically receives about 1,000 tips on illegal construction annually.
Penalties collected on those projects generally amount to about $350,000 to $400,000 over a six-month period, said Ben Neuman, the county code enforcement division manager who oversees the penalty-relief program.
“We did not see any variation in that (total) in the last six months,” Neuman said.
How to contact the Permit and Resource Management Department: