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Shorewood bolsters ability to cite those who build without permits

June 18, 2013

Shorewood — The Shorewood Village Board on Monday amended its municipal code to clarify and reiterate the board's power to cite both property owners and contractors who build on private properties and in public right-of-way areas without getting prior approval from the village.

The ordinance was approved at the same meeting as two separate requests to alter the public right of way on two properties: one to plant a short hedge row and another to build a retaining wall.

Both proposals were approved, but trustees chided contractor Outdoors Unlimited and the owners of the property with the retaining wall for nearly completing it before getting approval from the village. The lower wall extends 13 inches into the right-of-way area.

"This contractor does a lot of business in our area and should know better," Trustee Thad Nation said.

Two separate issues

However, Village Manager Chris Swartz said in a phone interview that the ordinance change is a completely separate issue from the more mundane permit requests.

Swartz said that the requests for permits to use right-of-way space, or conditional use permits, are heard at virtually every board meeting. He further explained that the ordinance change was meant to address building permits for much larger projects than yard adjustments, and citations would only be issued to contractors and property owners who impudently disregard the village government or fail to build within coded guidelines.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Ericka Lang likened the special privilege request to use the right-of-way area between 2 and 4 feet of the sidewalk as a simple application. The building permit addressed by the ordinance is a much longer process.

Although the 30-inch-high wall extends 13 inches into the right of way, Trustee Jeff Hanewall, chairman of the Public Works Committee, said that the committee negotiated with Outdoors Unlimited before the board meeting Monday and agreed to allow the retaining wall as planned, which the board also agreed to as long as the residents obtain liability insurance.

"Jeff did a fine job of chastising the contractor for doing this," board President Guy Johnson said.

Hanewall commended another resident for presenting thorough plans for hedge row in right-of-way area of that residence before putting in the plants.

"We want to praise the homeowner for being complete and coming in before any work was done," Hanewall said.

Ignoring will make it worse

After approving these two permits, the Village Board approved the new ordinance in the village building code that clarifies that the village can cite property owners and contractors who build on property without getting permission from the village first.

"If work is done without a permit, staff has the authority through ordinance to issue a citation to either the homeowner or the offending contractor," Hanewall said.

Swartz said that although the retaining wall construction would technically be a violation of this ordinance, he explained that the intent is to use that on projects that are larger in scale than just the right of way in front yards. Furthermore, Swartz said that citations would only be issued after contractors or property owners repeatedly ignore requests from the board to get a permit or go on with construction without a permit.

Lang also added that the ordinance might be used to cite a contractor instead of a homeowner when the contractor fails to build something to code.

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