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Editorial: State right to enforce building permit rules

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Attention local government bureaucrats: All building permits are not created equal. That’s why there are classifications for residential and commercial.

While the state Regulation and Licensing Department says it requires both to follow “building codes that provide structural strength, means of egress from facilities, stability of structures, sanitation, light and ventilation, energy conservation, affordability and safety of life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment,” the commercial permit is much more complex because it reflects the size, scope and intended use of the project.

So while it is unfortunate that Luna County incorrectly issued a residential permit two years ago for a 42,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse – primarily because it doesn’t have a certified commercial inspector – it is important the project comply with commercial construction requirements before it opens. State Construction Industries Division director Katherine Martinez points out that finished building will house people as well as plants “and that leaves me some room for concern. It’s a very large greenhouse. If there’s a fire, for instance, how are those people going to get out of the building? We’re just trying to say, ‘Bring the plans in, let’s see what we have.’”

Preferred Produce of Deming founder and CEO Dr. Matthew Stong says that since he was given a residential permit by a local inspector (who failed the test for national commercial certification) he doesn’t understand why he should have to pay more for the correct permit and he has a “counterproposal” in the works to get his expanded business open.

How does that work, exactly? You get a pass on commercial safety regs – and the accompanying cost – if someone files the wrong paperwork? And what happens if/when someone gets hurt?

The Preferred Produce project isn’t an isolated case. CID says it has found some 20 city and county inspectors – from Las Cruces to Santa Fe – who don’t have the required national certification to do certain types of inspections, and it has stepped in and taken over those duties until the local governments get into compliance.

That’s the right thing to do – these business owners should not have their projects delayed further because of bureaucratic problems, but they must have their projects permitted and inspected at the correct classification – not given a potentially dangerous pass.

Meanwhile, these communities should work to ensure they have the correctly licensed personnel in place so they are truly, and safely, open for new and expanding business.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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