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Urban Infill Inspection Program tying up loose ends

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

On March 27, the city of Austin Development Services Department implemented a new pilot program geared toward inspecting urban infill projects as soon as a building permit goes on file. John McDonald, a member of the environmental inspection infill group within Development Services, explained to the Environmental Commission at its May 16 meeting that the project has “enabled us to move from complaint-based, or reactive, inspections to compliance, or proactive, inspections.” Within the span of a month, they performed 7,105 inspections on 1,239 sites, for an average of five visits per site, resulting in 1,296 verbal warnings, 285 written violations and 43 stop work orders. This was all done with five inspectors. Chair Linda Guerrero expressed concern over the small number of dedicated inspectors in the face of future development done in conjunction with CodeNEXT. “How, when CodeNEXT comes up, are you going to be able to manage without additional staff?” she asked. McDonald agreed that they would be strapped for staff and are going to need to request additional full-time employees when they propose their budget. The Environmental Commission agreed that it would support this request with a recommendation to Council. In addition to inspecting lots that have applied for new building permits, the inspection team also responds to complaints. To help make sure that complainants are able to reach the department, Commissioner Pam Thompson had an idea. “I’m going to suggest the refrigerator magnet with your number on it,” she said.

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