Balancing preservation with property rights
By John Drobysh
Planning and land use regulations are good tools for preserving our natural environment. And local planning and zoning board members are to be applauded for their often tireless, and typically volunteer, efforts in guiding the growth of our towns and villages. But they are not there day in and day out, in the trenches so to speak, during the implementation of the plans they approve.
The mere enactment of new legislation or approval of a well thought-out plan for development does not insure the protection of the community or its resources. That job falls to the local Code Enforcement Official or building inspector. And most Code Enforcement Officials are not volunteers, nor should they be. Most are hard working, dedicated employees of local government, trying to protect the quality of life in the town they typically live in, and often grew up in. And most are there to help, not hurt you.
Growing up in a carpenters house in Kiamesha Lake, I remember when the state code was first adopted by the Town of Thompson in 1968, and the first zoning code in 1971. Many dinner conversations centered on someone who never built anything telling my father how to build. After all, he grew up in a carpenters house, started helping out when he was still in grade school. He had been building his whole life. And he was incensed how now some yahoo that cant even lay out a rafter was going to tell him how to build?
What Dad didnt understand was building codes werent implemented to hurt good builders. Zoning wasnt enacted to keep good neighbors from annoying each other. Regulations come about because a lot of people arent good builders or good neighbors. Building codes are there to protect the public from the unscrupulous contractor; zoning is there to keep the junk collector at bay. By the same token, they protect the good builder from the unscrupulous customer; they provide the legitimate automobile salvage facility a place to be.
What he didnt live long enough to see was the emergence of a new breed of enforcement officialsprofessional, knowledgeable, caring individuals with the experience and training to do the job the way it was meant to be done. (And who generally know how to lay out a rafter.)
Today, Sullivan County is seeing virtually unprecedented growth. Though more obvious on the eastern end of the county, it is headed our way. Protecting a natural resource like the Delaware River corridor, or preserving a quality of life like the rural farm country and treed mountainsides surrounding that corridor are lofty goalsachievable, but lofty. Balancing those goals with the rights of property owners to use or develop their land is critical. And providing proper code enforcement is the lynch pin that pulls it all together.
(John Drobysh is currently a resident and Code Enforcement Official in the Town of Cochecton, NY and former Cochecton ZBA member. He is also a former resident and Code Enforcement Official of the Town of Thompson, NY. He may be e-mailed at JDroby@aol.com with questions of a general nature regarding codes.)