To the editor:
I worked on a construction site several summers ago putting up a small family residence in Clinton. We built with compressed straw panel exterior walls and high efficiency slab heating. We started the project by deconstructing a ramshackle house built on an old singlewide trailer, salvaging much of the old lumber and other materials for the new house. These methods raised the cost of the overall project, but provided local jobs and cut back on our logging dependence.
The man who paid for this project is a well-respected member of the community, and was on the job site with us nearly every day helping out. He made it possible for the work to be done as well as it was, and did much of the work himself.
When the building inspector arrived, the main structures were up and most of the members of our small crew, including our benefactor, were all on site. The inspector arrived in the late morning a few hours after we had started working. All of us were in fine moods and working away as we had been for the past several weeks. The official man introduced himself, and started discussing building code with our boss. I was working nearby and listened in when I could, curious to hear how this government man would contribute to our project.
I won’t include any names and am trying to use as few specifics as possible, but I assure you everything I am saying is not an exaggeration. Many of the other people who were a part of this crew are current members of the South Whidbey community, and know this story just as well as I do.
Essentially, the inspector was a pompous ass. He had no positive input to our work whatsoever. The only practical thing I heard him bring up was: “Every exterior door needs to have an exterior light!” He said this loudly and accusatorily while pointing at one of our exterior doors that did not have a light next to it. We were fortunately able to explain to him that this door actually only accessed the tiny room that housed the heating elements and pump for the slab heating. He then calmed down and said that a light there wouldn’t be required.
Anything else practical or helpful he might have said got clouded by his severe irritability. I remember his exact words, barked out at our boss while he was stepping a few feet to the side: “Don’t you walk away while I’m talking at you!” and “I’m the one asking the questions! You aren’t the one asking the questions!”
While this is an extreme case, I know it is not an isolated incident from an otherwise friendly and supportive building code regulation system. I am sure there are a lot of good people writing and enforcing the code out there, but I also know there are a lot of bad ones. I have been involved with many other construction projects, on and off Island, where the official code has hindered sustainable and low impact intentions.
I bring this story up because of the front-page article on the Dec. 15 South Whidbey Record. I know nothing specific about this case, and have never heard Mayor Kwarsick speak, but the idea of holding a technicality about building code as a threat against a respected man in our community is laughable to me. The code system is broken. Larry Kwarsick sounds like a good man. Try to not let technicalities cloud your better judgment.