By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):
Source: City of Needles (Information and Agenda Packet):
Needles, California: Members of the Needles City Council approved Ordinance No. 643-AC that amends Chapter 6 in the Needles Municipal Code to add Article X entitled “Violation penalty for work without permits.”
Live Broadcast By ZachNews (Skip to 1:06:20 for Agenda Item #6):
The vote occurred during the regular meeting of the Needles City Council and Needles Public Utility Authority that was held on Tuesday, October 12th, 2021, which you can watch at ZachNews on Facebook.
Documents from the City of Needles say on March 11, 2021, the City Council gave direction to staff to draft an ordinance to establish a fee for persons who commence any construction work before obtaining the necessary permits. Additionally, on February 23, 2021, the City Council adopted the California Building Standards Code 2019 Edition which authorizes the Building Official to establish a fee for work commencing without a building permit. The California Building Standards Code states that:
- 109.4 Work commencing before permit issuance. Any person who commences any work on a building, structure, electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system before obtaining the necessary permits shall be subject to a fee established by the Building Official that shall be in addition to the required permit fees.
- 109.5 Related Fees. The payment of the fee for the construction, alteration, removal, or demolition, for work done in connection to or concurrently with the work authorized by a building shall not relieve the applicant or holder of the permit from the payment of other fees that are prescribed by law.
On August 10, 2021, the City Council directed staff to work with the City Attorney to acquire additional information and explore reasonable regulatory options relating thereto and amend the ordinance regulating violation penalties for work without permits. In contacting the communities in the surrounding region, only 1 community (Lake Havasu) issues a double fee for work without permits. Kingman and Bullhead Cities stop work immediately and require the contractor/resident get a permit from the building department.
The City seeks to implement penalties for any person who fails to comply with the building code. As authorized by California law, the city is proposing an investigation fee which represents the cost of inspection, in addition to the administrative citation fines set forth in section 2A-04(a)(1)(ii) of the Needles Municipal Code. The City Attorney has identified a twelve (12) month period allows for due process to occur and is consistent with the code. A violation of any of the provisions of this proposed article shall constitute a violation of the Needles Municipal Code and be subject to the following penalties:
Penalties within a twelve (12) month period:
- First Offense: an investigation fee equal to the permit fee plus an administrative citation fine of fifty dollars ($50);
- Second Offense: an investigation fee equal to the permit fee plus an administrative citation fine of five hundred dollars ($500.00);
- Third Offense: an investigation fee equal to the permit fee plus an administrative citation fine of one thousand dollars ($1000.00);
- Four or More Offenses: Four or more offenses shall result in referral of the matter to the City Attorney for prosecution.
Building codes are minimum requirements that help safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of all building occupants. Ensuring safety is the primary focus of the building code and by getting a permit, the City can validate the work completed on a building was completed properly.
The recommended action to members of the Needles City Council was to approve Ordinance No. 643-AC approving an Amendment to the Needles Municipal Code (NMC) Amending Chapter 6, Adding Article X, Entitled “Violation Penalty for Work Without Permits”, in the Needles Municipal Code.
*** Agenda Packet for Agenda Item #6 (Unless otherwise noted, all downloadable agenda packets that are posted here are in a PDF file format so please make sure to have a PDF file reader or viewer): ***
During discussions, Needles City Manager Rick Daniels said “Mr. Mayor, as you recall what triggered this request for us to develop this ordinance was a garage and an accessory dwelling unit that was build without any permits – no permits what so ever. And that’s what started this discussion and so this ordinance will reflect what can be done but stays within bounds as defined by State law.”
Needles City Council Kirsten Merritt spoke saying, “I think this is really good and I know we’re tied down by the laws, but I think this is really good and I think will at least get the message across because some of these permit fees you know aren’t quite so… good job.”
Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II then spoke saying “So I… personal not conflict but I’m familiar with this and sometimes… I’m trying to tell my boys this a lot… look in a mirror, sometimes it’s your fault so sometimes it’s our fault alright.”
Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II then spoke about what happened to his mother and the City over clearing off land, saying “My mom applied for a permit to get 2.3 acres clear off; no structural construction at all, nothing being put on there. Months go by, months go by, months go by; no permit, no permit, no permit. She calls Johnny and said “Clear it,” I’m done dealing with the City; I’m just done with it. He’s clearing it, somebody shows up and writes her a citation. She writes a check and said “Here you go, whatever.” So a lot of times this is our fault.”
Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II continued saying “Now the one you were talking about Rick (Daniels) I get it; you go on and build something without a permit – I get it, but a lot of times it’s our fault; we got to look into a mirror and say “Hay, we got to do a better job. Work harder tomorrow” right Rick (Daniels)?”
Needles City Manager Rick Daniels relied to Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II saying, “Uh-huh, that’s right.”
Needles City Council Member Tona Belt then spoke saying “But isn’t that diff… I think that’s a different scenario then that’s not them not applying, that’s us failing in our part,” which Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II responded saying, “This is only about applying?” which Needles City Council Member Tona Belt responded by saying “They haven’t acted – they didn’t apply.”
City of Needles Director of Development Services Patrick Martinez stepped up and spoke about this matter being discussed, saying to Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II, “If you have a current application in, we would work very closely with you to give you your permit before the work started.”
Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II responded, asking City of Needles Director of Development Services Patrick Martinez, “But what if you started the work… you have your application in for months and you started the work; without permit?”
City of Needles Director of Development Services Patrick Martinez responded to Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II saying, “We will ensure that you’ll have an expedited streamline process, and I will put my hand up in the air and swear to you I do my best to make sure that that happens within my team.”
Needles City Council Member Donald Wade Evans II said, “I hope it doesn’t happen from here on out but I mean… not just her… I mean not just her.”
Shawn Gudmundson spoke during public comments saying “This was put in place for certain people who thought the rules we’re beside them. But I do like the concern that Mr. Evans brought about what if you know time goes by and… doesn’t City Manager, Council, all of us have legal aid to wave fees and fines so they can take case by case scenario, not just that ‘Hay, you done this three times now; come on – get with it.'”
Shawn Gudmundson continued saying “But what I’m saying is there’s people that you know get tied and just say get it done; I hoping staff, City Manager, you guys work with them and not just slap them with all that so every case scenario is different – keep that in mind when you approve this. Thank you.”
After discussion and debate members of the Needles City Council as well as public input, the motion to approve was announced and members of the Needles City Council voted unanimously approving Ordinance amending Chapter 6, adding Article X, entitled “Violation Penalty”, in the Needles Municipal Code adding penalties for work without permits.
For more information, please contact Dale Jones, City Clerk at the City of Needles at: 1 (760) 326-2113.