Engineers turned off by county’s proposal

Clark County commissioners have been trying to make the best of a bad situation, with the lull in development, by using this time to try and improve the development process.

But with one idea, they’ve gone too far, at least according to the Development and Engineering Advisory Board. (That’s DEAB for short, pronounced “deeb,” as in a commissioner will say, “What does DEAB think?”)

The county has been simplfying code and coming up with other ideas, including a Developer Certification process.

At a Sept. 14 work session with commissioners, members of the DEAB and county staff, the proposal was presented by Pete Capell, director of Public Works, and Sue Stepan, development engineering review manager.

The Developer Certification process would eliminate the need for county review of a professional engineering consultant’s construction drawings.

The project was aimed at addressing a complaint that county engineers, rather than simply checking to see if a project met code, would offer unneccessary suggestions that would waste time and money.

“We are not in the business of saying, ‘We would like something better,” Commissioner Steve Stuart said. “We are in the business of saying, ‘Does it meet code?'”

The process could be used for subdivisions, rural short plats (when a hunk of land is divided into parcels), industrial parks, schools and commercial buildings but not single family residences.

The county would still do a preliminary land use review and a construction inspection, but the second step of reviewing construction plans would be skipped so long as the property owner, consultant and contractor signed a “certification statement” pledging the plan satisfies the land use decision and county codes.

DEAB member Greg Jellison of HDJ Design Group told commissioners why the DEAB thought this idea, which he said he has not heard of being used by any other county in the state, went too far:

  1. The potential for public liability if defects and failures occur after two-year warranty period.

  2. The potential that some professional engineers might not be in business when defects are discovered, limiting the county’s ability to recover costs.

  3. The county has already done a good job of streamlining the process and reducing permit fees.

  4. Most engineers want a second set of eyes. “No engineer’s plans are perfect,” Jellison said.

He said the proposal won’t save developers money because engineers will pay someone else to review the plans.

Commissioner Marc Boldt said the county has come a long way in streamlining the development review process. If the DEAB didn’t like the “Developer Certification” process, he was ready to scrap it.

Commissioner Tom Mielke said he wanted to go ahead because if the engineer screws up, it’s on the engineer. Stuart — who had to leave the meeting early but later gave his answer to Capell, giving him the rare opportunity to be the swing vote — agreed with Mielke. So the county will start a pilot program.

It will be optional, though, so engineers who like the system just the way it is don’t have to participate.

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