December 1, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Village hopes permits prevent problems

The permitting process the village of St. Joseph has is not a money-making venture.
Fences, decks, pools, and storage sheds need to be permitted by the village.


“You need a site plan showing setbacks, underground utility check, onsite check by staff,” said Village Administrator Joe Hackney. “There is a permit application at the municipal building or online which people can fill out. It is rather self-explanatory, but staff will be more than happy to help if someone calls.”


Hackney said the permitting process is not unusual and that the policy the mayor and board of trustees set governs basic setback standards, underground utility standards, and safety standards surrounding swimming pools, fences, and decks.


“Things of this nature, like code enforcement, fall on localities to monitor and ultimately enforce,” he said. “The superseding levels of government do not monitor these items, so it falls to our level to ensure that they are installed properly. No other unit of government is going to do it for us, so we have to govern our own.”


The reason for the permitting process is to make sure the property owner doesn’t install a structure in a precarious place for utility work, Hackney said.


Hackney said that protects future property owners, as well as the neighborhood more broadly in the event that serious utility work needs to be completed.


Hackney said that compared to a lot of communities, St. Joseph has a very relaxed zoning procedure and requirements.


“The Mayor and Board of Trustees have always weighed the requirements to make sure that they are not cumbersome,” he said. “However, the reason that zoning is critical in communities is to ensure the proper placement of structures. It’s not uncommon to hear “pre-zoning” stories where unfortunate errors were made because of planning mistakes back before proper zoning administration was implemented. Zoning aims to get planning right the first time, so that errors don’t need to be fixed later.”


Hackney also said that a fence around a pool, which is required by village ordinance, deters children and pets from getting into the pool unsupervised.


“It’s a safety issue and unfortunately tragedies do occur,” he said. “In municipalities, there often isn’t a lot of “elbow room” to your neighbor’s property. If you have children or pets, not only do you have to monitor them to make sure they are safe in your yard, but be mindful of the neighborhood more broadly. In a perfect world, kids and pets wouldn’t stray into other properties, but we don’t live in that world. So, people need to have perimeter fences.”


Hackney stressed the village is not making money off the permitting process. The fees associated with the permits are to cover the costs of staff time and resources that go into administering the permits.


“This is essentially a use fee,” he said. “In simple terms, if you don’t want to get a swimming pool, you won’t have a fee to pay.  You pay use fees on a routine basis in other areas of your life, and it is an attempt to supplement the cost of providing a service. The service here is to ensure that pools are installed in accordance with the rules that protect the neighborhood.”

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