Whether or not your home or building is in the Blanco Historic District, building permits are required if your property is within city limits.
When you start a remodeling project inside the city limits, preparation and knowledge on your part of building permits, codes, and fees are essential and vital. Permits allow the work to be inspected, and inspections are necessary to the progress of the project. To give you some basic information on building permits, let’s answer some questions regarding these items.
If you live outside of Blanco’s downtown historic district, you do not need a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) — just a permit.
What is a building permit?
A building permit is an official certificate or document issued by the City of Blanco. This document is issued by the city’s official who authorizes the performance of a specific building activity and is posted at the job site. There are various inspections for different items — such as plumbing, electrical, framing, insulation, foundation, etc. — performed by a hired inspector, and each inspection gets its own documentation. Rules on permits, how they are enforced, and how the fees are set vary.
Who should pull the building permit?
Any home owner can take out a permit and work on his or her house. Remodelers and subcontractors can take out a permit as well.
Whoever takes out the building permit is held responsible — and accepts the liability — if the work performed does not meet local building codes. If you are hiring someone to do work on your house, you would most likely want them to be responsible for ensuring it meets the codes.
What does the inspector look for?
The main reason the inspector is there is to ensure that the work meets all building codes. The inspector does not make sure you are happy with the work or that the contractor is meeting your expectations, only that the codes are met.
What are building codes?
Building codes are published ordinances that regulate design loads, spans, materials, and so on. There are hundreds of them adopted from national codes books, and they are revised and updated every few years.
Who should know these codes?
Ideally, anyone who is performing the work should have adequate knowledge of the building codes so that the work can pass inspection. A licensed contractor and all the subcontractors should be aware of these codes; the building inspector will definitely know all the codes.
When and how often will inspections take place?
Inspections will be made when called upon by the contractor, and there are several different types of inspections usually made depending upon the size and scope of the project. Typically, inspectors will perform their duties after foundation, framing, insulation, plumbing, electrical, or other stage of work is done. Construction cannot proceed until each stage has passed inspection with a written approval from the inspector. If a stage of the work does not pass inspection, then changes must be made to ensure that it does, and this may impact the completion date for the project. It’s a good idea to keep track of the inspection schedule to make sure that construction is not delayed.
Why the fees?
Fees associated with permits are there to offset the real cost of reviewing job plans and job site inspections for all departments. One way you can look at the costs associated with fees is that they are insurance the work will be done to code; the fees may seem like major obstacles, but they are there to provide minimum standards for the protection of life and property.
A building permit allows work to begin on your remodeling project, and it makes the work available for inspection for code compliance. It would be beneficial to you to make sure your contractor secures a building permit. This will not only prove that the contractor is licensed, but it will also hold that contractor liable for anything not meeting code. It is a way to protect yourself and the work being done on your biggest investment: your own home.
Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)
In Blanco’s downtown historic district you will need a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for most work done on the exterior. When you have the certificate, you’ll go to the next step of getting your permit.
Work that is minor in nature can be approved by City staff as a Certificate of No-Effect. Minor work generally involves repairs that match the existing materials, finishes and/or architectural features found on the building.
Work items such as additions, adding or removing porches, enclosing, re-roofs, or other construction that alters the structure and appearance of the building requires a Certificate of Appropriateness. The approvals are issued by the Historic Preservation Commission.
To apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness, an application must be completed. These applications are available from the City. Additional materials needed for the review and approval processes include a site plan and elevations or drawings depicting the proposed work.
Depending upon the work to be done, photos of proposed worksite and cut sheets describing the materials or building products to be used also may be requested. A complete application and submittal materials are necessary before a Certificate of Appropriateness can be reviewed and approved.
For those needing a Certificate of Appropriateness, the staff will schedule a hearing and prepare a report for the HPC describing the proposed work. Applicants are encouraged to be present at the hearing. If this is not possible, an applicant may have a representative, such as their contractor or architect, attend the hearing on their behalf. The HPC may approve, require modifications to the proposed work to help it comply with the preservation guidelines for the building or historic district, or deny an application that adversely affects the character-defining features of the building or historic district. Any decision by the Historic Preservation Commission can be appealed to the City Council.
Here is a list of web site to keep you in touch: www.blancoguide.com, www.blancochamber.com, and www.cityofblanco.com.
This article was contributed by Rudy Nino, a member of the Blanco Historic Preservation Commission and a local builder/remodeler.