[BY S. SALMI]
Environmental policy largely operates out of a regulatory paradigm. Most of the folks over at the state Department of Ecology spend their days telling others what they can and can’t do. And when Envirotalk commentators debate regulations, they typically veer on the side of complaining that Ecology is going too easy on somebody.
Thus, it was ironic to read in The Olympian that prominent local environmentalist Anne Buck didn’t obtain the proper permit and inspection when she erected a wall near the entrance of her business, Buck’s Fifth Avenue. The building is located in a national historic district, so physical changes are subject to review by the City of Olympia. In addition, the entrance to Buck’s store may no longer meet fire safety code.
Buck was given two weeks to remove the wall or “obtain a permit to build a structure within the guidelines for safety and preservation,” writes reporter Andy Hobbs.
What will Buck do? In the article she doesn’t say point blank, although Buck vows to keep the wall intact and insists, “It’s my property and we’re not touching any city property.”
Interestingly, the situation has thus far generated no attention on Envirotalk. However, Reddit.com has a lively discussion. The defining question was asked by OlyScott: “I wonder how hard it would have been for her to get a permit to build that thing.”
This query led to a tart response by Modelo_Chelada: “You clearly have absolutely no fucking clue. What permit have you ever applied for? I would love to hear!”
The Reddit.com discussion has thus far not reached a level of specifics that could lead the thoughtful person to suggest, “If we changed the process in X way we could still accomplish the worthy goals of the regulations while making life easier for the citizen.” The Olympian’s comment thread isn’t any more productive despite the unusually large number of posters.
Of course, the above line of discussion assumes that we as a community 1) still care that no one dies in a fire because of impediments to escaping and 2) that government still has a role in keeping people safe.
By the same token, a productive conversation might also consider that regulation is not a one-way street. For example, it’s true that having a building located in a national historic district means you must take the extra step of obtaining a “Heritage Review” as part of the permitting process. However, property owners also receive benefits such as “Building Code relaxation” and potential tax incentives. Go here for details.
Perhaps Envirotalk will eventually have a conversation about building permits. In the meantime, I hope that Buck manages to wind her way through the regulatory process as painlessly as possible. After all, the wall she built sounds like a good idea.
ALL OUR SOURCES:
- democracy_later; 2017. “Downtown Olympia business owner defends wall as solution to poop problem | Olympian.” Reddit.com. Posted March 7; accessed March 11.
- Hobbs, Andy; 2017. “Downtown Olympia business owner defends wall as solution to defecation problem.” The Olympian. Posted March 9; accessed March 11.
PHOTOS: Olympia, Earth Images