Commentary: County building process inefficient, over-burdened and confrontational

Bill Bullock

Bill Bullock

It has been a couple of weeks since I offered my opinion as a follow-up to the letter written by Richard Mills regarding the Yavapai County Developmental Services Department. Again, I commend Mr. Mills for his accurate assessment - and the guts it took to state it. Honestly, I have had dozens of comments - or should I say compliments - regarding my commentary. I have received phone calls, emails and face to face compliments - even from people I do not personally know.

The comments have come from contractors, an architect, Cottonwood and Clarkdale employees and even a Yavapai County employee. The closet thing I have seen to negative comment was “I did not realize it was that bad” from a non-contractor. Simply put, we all know the situation. Unfortunately the county has pounded the contractors into submission and few of us are willing to go public.

What I have learned from all of this are several stories from others regarding their experiences and an unfortunate understanding of how the county plan review system works -- or doesn’t work, which is a more accurate assessment.

It seems that the plan examiners are not encouraged - or maybe even not allowed - to approve any set of plans on the first submittal. The plans must be redlined and returned to those making the submittal for “corrections.”

That term in itself causes the hair on my neck to bristle. In virtually every case there are no actual “corrections” to be made. The plans examiners really just want more information to be shown on the plans. There is nothing inherently “wrong” with the plans as submitted. I suggested that the county change their terminology to “more information” two years ago in the hopes that they would be less confrontational with the public. They are not interested it seems.

Many times two or three red-lined notes could be made and the plans could be “approved as noted” - another prospect for good will with the public - a practice used by other building departments. Again, not interested in good will.

I spoke with a local architect who had submitted plans for approval. We are talking about a man with far more construction education than a plans examiner who took a few night classes to establish a “career.” The architect’s plans were rejected with the standard 12 or so “corrections” required. The architect made the “corrections” and re-submitted. The plans were returned once again with about 12 more “corrections.” You see, the plans examiners do not have to find all of your “mistakes” the first time. They are allowed several bites of the apple - while you wait for the wheels of government to try to keep up with the neighborhood snails.

Upon his third submittal, he was rewarded once again with - you guessed it - more “corrections.” He eventually was able to secure a building permit. Again, as I said in my first letter, where would this situation leave the architect-client relationship if it were anything but rock solid to begin with?

I wonder if a contractor were to staple the entire International Building Code book to the plans, then would we be able to get past this nonsense? For decades, plan reviews were not required. Builders knew the rules, the building code. Other than the occasional field adjustment required by the actual inspectors, construction moved along nicely.

But it seems that government has created a whole new industry -- plan examiners.

So are they the bad guys? We have plan reviews in Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Camp Verde and Sedona here in the Verde Valley. The processes in those places are smooth, efficient and pleasant.

Why does Yavapai County insist on being so difficult, so time consuming and such a miserable place to visit? That question is for you Mr. Mauk and you Mr. Garrison.

These other local building departments prove that it does not have to be that way.

Bill Bullock is the owner of C&B Construction in Cottonwood.

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