Going heavy on Mayo

Bob Mayo’s dedication to the American Legion is unbounded and much appreciated.

His disdain for the rules of government leaves something to be desired.

Mayo, who lives on County Road 245 north of New Castle, built an American Legion Hall on the front of his property.

Only trouble is, Mayo never got the Garfield County building or zoning permits required.

Worse yet, his failure to seek the permits apparently was no mere oversight.

“I believe this is my constitutional right. I can do anything I want with my land, if it doesn’t violate my neighbor’s integrity,” he has told county commissioners.

But that’s the point of the zoning process: to make sure something fits in with the character of a neighborhood.

The battle over zoning was settled long ago in most communities, and we agree with its outcome. Property owners are best served if certain uses are limited to certain districts. That’s what can give a homeowner, for example, assurance that a noisy, smelly factory isn’t going to be built next door.

Building permits serve their purpose as well. As a builder, Mayo may have full confidence in his ability to erect a safe and solid building. But building departments exist to help assure the public of this, so we’re not operating on mere trust.

This is particularly important in the case of a building that can hold 100 people. The consequences could be severe in the case of an unsound building with inadequate exits.

The county has given Mayo until June 13 to properly apply for the permits. If he doesn’t, he’ll be dragged into court and could face fines or even jail time.

If he seeks a building permit now, the county can, and should, charge him twice the normal permit fee. It would only be fair to others who follow the rules. He also would face the cost of any work required to upgrade the building to code.

At least he isn’t facing the possibility of being ordered to tear down the building, as sometimes can occur in these kinds of cases. He always could convert it to agricultural use, which is currently allowed. Given that there has been no neighborhood outcry, hopefully he will seek, and the county will be able to issue, the conditional use permit required for the building’s current use.

Despite the worthy purpose of Mayo’s building, the county could scarcely look the other way at his snubbing of its zoning and permitting process. To do so would set a precedent that would only invite further abuses of necessary rules of government.

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