Before a building or structure is constructed, altered, enlarged, repaired, moved, improved, renovated, or demolished, a building permit is required. (Section 106 of the Building Code).
Unless specifically exempt, a permit is required. For example, the following types of projects do require a permit:
Some work is exempt from permit. The common exceptions are:
Even work exempt from permit must comply with zoning regulations, such as setbacks from property lines.
The City and Borough of Sitka, like most state and local governments, has adopted building codes for oversight of building activity. Codes provide for safety of owners, tenants, and the public. Building codes work hand in hand with zoning laws to balance the interests of communities and neighborhoods with individual property owners' freedom to build on and use their property.
The code requires the normal permit fee be doubled if work was begun without a permit. The Building Department may also order work stopped until a permit is obtained. Structures erected without a permit may be ordered removed or repositioned.
Also, bank financing or insurance may be difficult or impossible to obtain if work was not inspected by the city building department for structural and safety concerns during construction.
The permitting process begins when the applicant comes to the Building Department and describes the project they wish to undertake. If a permit is required (See, when is a permit required), the applicant needs to first provide a plot plan showing the location of proposed and existing structures in relation to the property lines, and plans for the proposed structure. (See plan submittal requirements.) Depending on the project, the plot plan may vary from a formal survey document to a simple graph paper sketch by the applicant. The distance from the structure to each property line must be shown. The rest of this page describes the process to permit a home. For smaller projects not all steps apply.
The plot plan is reviewed by Planning and Zoning for compliance with zoning requirements, and by the Building Department for compliance with building codes. This process usually takes about two days.
After P&Z and Building Department approval, a Foundation Only permit is issued. This permit allows the applicant to begin site work, including grading and fill, and also to erect the foundation up to the mud sill (i.e. first piece of wood that attaches to concrete foundation.) You will be called by a representative of the Building Department when your Foundation Permit is ready. There is no charge for the Foundation Permit.
Next is the plan review. As soon as possible, the applicant should submit their complete plans for the structure, including elevations and floor layouts. (Depending on project scope, formal engineering or architectural services may be required.) These plans will be reviewed by the Building Department for compliance with applicable codes. This is the phase in the process where many potential problems are detected and corrected, before expensive mistakes get made in actual construction. The time span for this step varies depending on the project, but the process usually takes about two weeks for residential homes.
After the foundation is completed, an "as-built" survey usually must be provided. An "as-built" is necessary to show that the foundation, as described on the permit application, was actually built where it was shown on the plot plan. After the "as-built" is completed (applicant responsibility) and the "plan review" of the construction documents is completed (Building Department responsibility), the Building Permit itself can be issued.
A representative of the Building Department will call to let you know that your permit is ready to be picked up. At this time the permit fee is paid. The cost of the Building Permit is based on project value. Construction cannot commence until the applicant has the Building Permit in hand.
The applicant is responsible to call the Building Department to schedule required inspections. One working day's notice is generally required.
The Building Department prides itself on its commitment to customer service. Please let us know how we can help you, and always feel free to offer suggestions on ways we might improve. We look forward to serving you.
The time it takes to complete a plan review and issue a building permit will vary depending on specifics of the project. The following guidelines provide a general idea for planning purposes. The time frames assume a clean set of plans with no unusual code or zoning issues.
Simple residential remodel / repair with no change in building footprint: 1-3 days; if you call first for an appointment and have a good plan, we can often issue the permit while you wait.
New residential home: 1 week.
Small commercial building or remodel: 2 weeks.
Large commercial project: 3 weeks (for first review or a major revision). Time to review revisions varies depending on complexity.
The Sitka Building Department is required by law to conduct plan reviews of public and commercial buildings. It conducts these reviews under its deferral of authority from the State Fire Marshal's Office. The following guidelines explain when stamped plans are, or are not, required. (Definition: "stamped" means plans prepared by an Alaska licensed architect or engineer.)
Section 106 of the Building Code requires plans to be prepared and designed by an engineer or architect licensed by the State to practice as such in the specific discipline. There are some exceptions.
Under specific written standards issued by the State Fire Marshal's Office, the Building Department must require stamped plans under Section 106 except as below.
Unstamped plans are only acceptable if they meet the exceptions outlined in Alaska Statute 08.48.311 as follows:
"Sec. 08.48.331. Exemptions. This chapter does not apply to:
Exceptions 8 and 10 are further clarified as follows:
Exception (g): "alterations or repairs to a building that do not change or affect the structural system or the safety of the building, or that does not affect the public health, safety or welfare."
As a matter of policy, the Sitka Building Department will accept unstamped/unsealed plans if the project is valued at less than $50,000; the alteration or repair is uncomplicated; and the plans submitted are detailed enough to answer all key/essential items for the plan review and are complete enough so that a list of additional information or details is not required. As a guideline, if over 10 additional items are annotated, the plans are not complete enough for review.
Exception (10): allows for unstamped/unsealed plans if the plans are drafted by and received from the owner.
As a matter of policy, the Sitka Building Department will accept plans under this exception using the following criteria:
In addition, Exception 10 requires that the building/structure must be an uncomplicated project and the plans must contain enough detail to provide all key/essential information to complete the review. As a guideline, if over 10 items an required, the plans are not complete enough for review.
All building structures of Type A (assembly), E (educational), H (hazardous), I (institutional), or R-l (residential) over four units, or buildings which require an area separation wall, fire protection system or is a mixed occupancy, are to be considered complicated and stamped/sealed plans are required.
While the above criteria offers a guide to the circumstances under which we may accept unstamped/unsealed plans, the Sitka Building Department still has the authority to order stamped/sealed plans on any building where drawings submitted are not, in our estimation, sufficient for review. In such a case our justification for requiring signed/stamped plans will be in writing if requested, and the decision will be discussed with the builder. This process is to ensure uniformity.
NOTE: "Uncomplicated" shall mean: Plans will not involve area separation walls, change of occupancy to a more restrictive category, and/or does not require more than minor changes to mechanical or fire systems.
If we receive plans that do not meet the criteria in the paragraph above the procedure is to write a letter back to the applicant and notify them that the plans are insufficient for review and a set of stamped/sealed plans are required. The Building Department will not normally provide list of over 10 items that still need to be included or detailed.
If the plans are stamped/sealed the same procedure applies except that our letter back to architect or engineer will state that we have started a plan review however there are too many problems with the plans to conduct a review. The letter may make a recommendation that they review specific sections of the UBC/UFC.
The following is to clarify on when a plan review is required for fire systems:
Notwithstanding the following, a plan review can be required by the Building Department any time a fire system is changed or modified if the Building Official determines a special circumstance exists which brings the system changes or modifications into question for compliance with the controlling standard.
A plan review will be required on all new fire systems whether the system is required or not.
A plan review will be required for a fire sprinkler system under the following conditions:
A plan review will be required for fire alarm systems under the following conditions:
A plan review will be required for special hazard systems under the following conditions:
In cases where changes are made to fire systems and a plan review is not required by this policy, the following actions will be required by the company/individual making the changes: