January 22, 2019

Differential Enforcement in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 7:22 am

Look the other wayThis morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press, the local skews paper for the town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, had an article headlined Builder:  City Blows Roof Off Common Sense | Garage 10 Inches Too Tall; Roof Rebuilt.

The paper reports that a roofing truss supplier provided trusses which were 10 inches higher than specified for a local residential garage.  The error, acknowledged by affected and interested parties as harmless, was not caught until after the trusses had been installed by the builder.  The builder and owner dutifully and properly reported the error and requested a variance from the Coeur d’Alene Planning & Zoning Commission.

The Coeur d’Alene P&Z Commission properly denied the requested variance because it failed to meet the code requirements for the variance.   The cost for removing and replacing the properly specified but incorrectly built trusses was apparently borne by the trussmaker, not the builder or homeowner.

Based on only the information reported in this article, it is difficult to dispute the decision of the P&Z Commission.  If a city has adopted building and safety codes, the codes and penalties for violations must be applied to all applicants equally or risk being accused of being arbitrarily discriminatory.

But now, read an earlier article from the same skews paper posted on July 21, 2017.  That article was headlined Council Debates 9-Inch Fail.

In the 2017 skews story, a local construction company violated the City’s building code, too.  But in that case, the City was aware of the violation during construction and chose not to issue an order to stop work until the violation was corrected.   The violation, an encroachment onto the City’s sidewalk, was allowed to remain.  So instead of requiring the construction company to make a costly ($15,000) correction of the encroachment, the City told its favorite local construction company it could donate $700 worth of materials for other City projects.  To their credit, Coeur d’Alene City Council members Dan Gookin and Ron Edinger sought to have the code enforced consistently.  The other four City Council members apparently decided they were just gonna look the other way on this one.

These two examples show clearly what was acknowledged publicly in the July 21, 2017, article:  The City of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, does not enforce its City codes consistently.  The result is that some people are treated unfairly when others are treated preferentially.

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