by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher
What started off as a routine meeting of the Pass Christian Planning Commission on December 14, 2021 devolved rapidly into a discussion regarding the lack of enforcement and penalties for contractors violating City building codes. This began when Commissioner Margaret Jean Kalif once again brought the issue up, just as she had at the April 14, 2021 Planning Commission meeting.
At the April meeting, Commissioner Kalif expressed that she was tired of people coming in and asking for forgiveness. She commented, “My dilemma is this, people come in and know what our laws are, and they know what our setbacks are. They build these things and then they come to us and say whoops, we made a mistake, would you just forgive us and let us slide.”
She added, “I’m kind of weary of it because it happens almost at every meeting and people want forgiveness instead of following our laws.”
At the time City Attorney Malcolm Jones acknowledged that historically the City’s enforcement has been lacking and stringent penalties did not exist for violators.
Kalif brought up the possible need to increase the fees for variances brought to the Commission. She noted that although she didn’t want to increase the financial burden for Pass Christian residents, but to end those variances whereby contractors take advantage of the City’s lax enforcement and penalties for violating City laws and building codes.
Chairman Tom Phares and the rest of the Commission appeared to agree with Kalif and recommended that they get with the City to determine the best way to resolve this issue. He added, this effort would “encourage applicants to do the right thing the first time.”
Some examples of those seeking “after the fact” variances include a contractor that knowingly relocated the garage without getting prior approval from the Commission; another involved an applicant that agreed not to cut certain trees but clear cut the trees anyway, and another example is when a contractor agreed to install a fence 25 feet from the road but decided on their own to install the fence only 10 feet from the road.
The bottom line; by the consensus of the Planning Commission, is that the City needs to develop policies and rules consistent with the vision for what the area should look like, enforce those rules and penalize those that violate those governing rules.