June 11, 2018

Yankton Daily Press: Aerial Imagery Highlights Building Permit Violations


The Yankton County, South Dakota, Planning & Zoning Department has been using Pictometry® imagery and ChangeFinder™ from EagleView to spot building permit violations. The results, according to officials, have been alarming.

Altogether, said Yankton County Planning & Zoning Director Pat Garrity, this technology has helped them discover 133 violations throughout the county. Most of these are one-car garage-sized gardening sheds. Others, like additions, were also present.

Garrity told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan that in recent years, at least one house in the county had been built without any sort of building permit. That house is valued at approximately $250,000.

Left unchecked, that missed property and other violations represents lost tax revenue for local initiatives. Garrity said that the county would lose about $1.04 million in revenue without being able to spot these changes.

With the most recent [Pictometry image capture] overflight conducted in 2017 and the results now tabulated,  said 133 violations were found throughout the county.

“That kind of alarms me,” he said. “That seems like an awful large number.”

Among the 133 violations cited, among the most popular were one-car garage-sized gardening sheds.

Garrity said some of these violations may have been unintentional on the part of violators.

“Our regulations kick in at 120 square feet,” he said. “I’m frustrated because I think several people that sell these garden sheds are misleading their customers, saying they don’t require a building permit, but they do. … Those garden sheds over 120 square feet require a building permit, and I’ve heard several people say the seller said they won’t.” …

In the end, Garrity said it’s best for anyone who doesn’t know whether they can proceed with or without a permit to just ask.

“If you’re in doubt, you call the office and find out if you need a building permit or not,” he said. “I wouldn’t assume that you don’t need one.”

The Planning & Zoning Department in Yankton County has been using Pictometry imagery since 2009 to get a bird’s-eye view of the county. They began using ChangeFinder in 2013 to compare current and historical imagery and pinpoint property changes. These changes are then cross-referenced to existing building permits.

The Yankton County Commission voted to fine those who had built sheds, additions, and other major improvements without obtaining the necessary permits. The maximum penalty for those violations is $100.

This is a common practice for Planning & Zoning departments and other government agencies. Minnehaha County, also in South Dakota, uses technology to tackle unique planning and zoning challenges in rural areas. Assessors also use building permit information to track improvements, which in turn helps keep property values fair and equitable throughout a jurisdiction.

Read the rest of the article on the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.

Want to know the value that ChangeFinder can bring to assessors, planning and zoning officials, and other key roles in government?

Get the full picture with our interactive map and image gallery.

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