Swimming Pool Permits - Why does it cost so much, and why you probably don't want to deal with it yourself
Like it or not we live in a world where government seems to be involved in everything with an unquenchable thirst for control, money, and power. With the recent decline in construction type projects this has meant that building and zoning departments have found themselves with even MORE time to scrutinize projects that are going on in an effort to further justify their own existence. Building and Zoning departments though started as a result of a legitimate need for public safety and health have become no more than a means for government to get into your pocket and your lives without anything you can do about it. If the EPA is involved expect absolute rule and unchecked power. In other words if they say no, more certain than death – the answer is NO.
When building begin in accent times it was not uncommon for a structural builder to be held responsible for any damage or failure his building caused. In some cases that may have meant if a client lost a family member the builder would be punished and lost a family member too. Eye for an eye in the most literal sense. Fast forward to 1625 the Dutch West India Company established rules for the types of houses and locations that could be built by the colonists in New Amsterdam- a colony on Manhattan Island. This is believed to be the birth of building code in the what was not quite yet the United States. By 1674 extensive laws had been created governing the construction methods, sanitation, and fire prevention. For nearly 200 years the building and standards world remain unchanged until a tenant fire took 20 lives in 1860. It was at this time building codes were greatly tightened and the position "Superintendent of Buildings" was created and we had the birth of the first Chief Building Official or CBO.
Once we are ready to submit to the zoning department we often have an inch or so of paperwork. Is all that needed to decide if a fiberglass pool can safely be installed for in a customer's yard? They say it is. I would argue that it’s because the building departments review fees are determined by the number of pages in the application! So as the plans reviewer, why not ask for EVERY owner's manual for EVERY component used on the project? The manual is available in Spanish too? Better be safe than sorry and submit that too. In Cincinnati this Spring I was asked for a complete copy of every manual for every component and then was asked for 9 sets. This stack of paper was around 6"tall. When I asked if I could FedEx it I was told that plans have to be manually checked in with an examiner and a receipt issued. They failed to mention that the real reason they wouldn't take a FedEx was that they collect the review fee immediately. You may be wondering how much 6" of paper costs to "review?" Over $900. Who pays that bill? The client. More indirect TAX.
No kidding? Jagged and off 1/4" from where it was supposed to be. I'll be perfectly honest. WE ARE PROUD to be accurate to a 1/4" on a fence. We installed 200' of construction fence within 1/4" of where it was supposed to be. As far as I'm concerned that makes us AWESOME. Apparently Liberty township didn't share in our excitement.
Unfortunately all of these hoops and bureaucratic obstacles cost us all money and are the norm NOT the exception. I could certainly build more pools every year if I didn't have to put up with the games. More pools and less paperwork would also mean less cost. Why do we pull permits for all of our jobs? For one it's the law but the real reason is that our customers want it. No homeowner is equipped to deal with the nonsense that many zoning and building departments can dish out. Once you have a handle on what it's going to take to get a permit, it's not so surprising that MOST pool companies don't "do permits."