Dancing around the pole barn

Controversy surrounds previously permitted structure at CCJPB meeting


During their regularly scheduled meeting on July 10, the Carbon County Impact Joint Powers Board (CCIJPB) was presented with a conundrum in the form of Saratoga resident Mark Jones, who was nearing completion on an accessory building on his property that included water and sewer service.

“I guess, to kind of fill the board in, Mark is building a pole barn accessory building to the rear of his house and our former zoning officer and public works director signed off on a building permit that would allow him to extend services from his house to the accessory building,” said CCIJPB Chairman Richard Raymer. “That being said, our ordinances conflict with that, and so he is here tonight to come before the board for discussion on said issue.” 

According to Saratoga Municipal Code 13.08.040, “the water piping system of each new building and of new work installed in an existing building shall be separate and independent to that of any other building.” Additionally, municipal code 13.36.050 reads that each building on a property with sewer service should have independent sewer. The code does make an exception if the building is at the rear of an interior lot and private sewer cannot be accessed or constructed through an adjoining alley, court, yard or driveway.

Raymer suggested to Jones that, to avoid running into an issue with the ordinances related to water and sewer service for an additional building, he consider building a breezeway or a similar construction to attach the accessory building to the main building.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is setbacks because, if you built it like an accessory building, then it has a whole different setback requirement than if it’s an attached structure. So, you may be getting yourself out of one conflict with one ordinance but into conflict with another,” said Jon Nelson, town council representative.

“Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about the fact that I came down on the 3rd of March and applied for a building permit and your acting zoning officer discussed it with me and I submitted to him a site plan as per your regulations and, in this site plan … you can see that I put down that I was going to connect my sewer and water to the existing sewer and water in the crawlspace,” said Jones.

Jones added that the initial conversation took place on a Tuesday and, by that Thursday, he had been informed by former zoning officer Dan Ferrin that Public Works Director Jon Winter had approved the extension of services.

“So, I get my building permit, which I have here, which was issued by the Town of Saratoga, and then I ordered my building after getting my sewer and water as my permit says I can. I order bathroom, I order windows, I order doors. Everything legal, according to the documents that were supplied to me,” Jones said.

With, seemingly, everything in order, Jones informed the CCIJPB that he was surprised to receive a call on May 15 informing him that the extension of the water and sewer services was against ordinance. Jones added that, during that phone call, it had been suggested to attach the pole barn to his house. 

“I get a call on the 15th of May, which is two-and-a-half months later, that I needed to do what you said, Richard. The city made a mistake issuing a building permit. I called you, as you recall, and you said you’d get back to me within a couple days,” said Jones.

Raymer replied to Jones that he had asked acting zoning officer Kent Smith to get in touch with Jones about the issue. Jones stated that his impression of the conversation was that Raymer would contact him within a couple days of the phone call. When nearly two months went by, Jones believed everything was still okay in terms of the water and sewer service until he received a call on June 26 requesting he attend the July meeting of the CCIJPB.

“It’s not my problem. I don’t really have a problem. You guys got the problem. You have the problem that I was given a building permit, designed the building based upon that. I have no plans to attach a breezeway. That’s not the intent of the building. I don’t know how you guys are going to settle that,” Jones said.

Both Raymer and Nelson informed Jones that they were sympathetic to the issue. 

“We can sit up here and say that every town citizen needs to have read every ordinance front and back and they’re accessible to everyone online and they’re readily available. I’d like to think that we all, as citizens, need to generally understand how things are supposed to operate,” Nelson said. “But, I see your point. If you’re going to come in and ask a question of a town employee and you get an answer, and it’s the wrong answer, then that becomes an internal problem for us. It’s frustrating. I will say that.”

As discussion continued with Jones and among the joint powers board, it was agreed upon that the non-conformity of the property could stay. Further discussion, however, centered around whether or not Jones would be charged an additional sewer fee. 

“As far as sewer services, when was the first time you heard about paying an additional monthly fee?” asked CCIJPB Vice-Chairman Craig Kopasz.

“Seventeen minutes ago,” replied Jones.

Nelson suggested that a documentation of the non-conformity be attached to information about the property. The town council member added that, should Jones or anyone else attempt to turn the pole barn, which will be unfinished and only include a sink and a toilet, into a living space, a building permit would need to be applied for and the issue could be addressed at that time.

“This is a bigger issue than what you’re trying to do. It’s the fact that the town got caught not doing their job,” said Raymer.

A motion was made by Kopasz for Smith to draft up documentation about the non-conforming water and sewer service, that things would be allowed to continue as set forth in the building permit and that there be no additional sewer charges per month. The motion was passed with Nelson, Kopasz and Dave Christman in favor and Roger Cox abstaining. CCIJPB members Russell Waldner and Joe Parsons were not present.

The next meeting of the CCIJPB will be at 6 p.m. on Aug. 14 at Saratoga Town Hall.


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