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Boom time for building

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SNOQUALMIE - A ride through Snoqualmie Ridge in Jim Tinner's Jeep shows that he has been a busy man.

As the building official and code enforcement officer for the city of Snoqualmie, he easily navigates the maze of new roads that snake through the Ridge.

Without looking at a map, Tinner casually points out numerous parcels and plots - both developed and undeveloped - and sites for future houses, retail shops and parks, while providing the dates for when they will be completed.

Tinner has seen the blueprints behind every new building and upgrade in the city since he started 31/2 years ago, and to say that he and the Building Department have been busy during that time is to put it mildly.

"For a guy with a job like mine, it's really great to be in a city like this because it is growing so much," Tinner said. "Most cities are maxed out, but that's not the case here."

Not at all. Tinner said Snoqualmie, on average, has approved about 400 building permits a year since he started, which, he added, is an unheard-of number in a city with less than 4,000 people.

The Sept. 11 attacks last year slowed things down, but he believes the city will approve about 300 building permits this year - still a high number.

"In most cities this size, you'll approve 20 to 30 new homes a year," Tinner said. "And that's in a good year."

As the city's building official, Tinner has been deeply involved with the development of Snoqualmie Ridge.

He is happy to see houses there that had problems selling following Sept. 11 now with "sold" signs posted out front.

Like everyone else in Snoqualmie, he awaits the day that a grocery chain announces it intentions to locate a store in the Ridge's neighborhood retail center. And he will be occupied by plans recently submitted to construct a new building next to the Key Bank Building in the retail center.

With all the new construction, Tinner said he has no questions about the economic vitality of Snoqualmie.

"I think this really shows we are coming out of the recession," he said.

A ride through the Ridge on a nice day may sound leisurely, but it is not what Tinner spends his whole day doing. He's usually at his drafting desk looking over the latest plans that have been submitted.

Last Wednesday, it was the plans for the new building in the neighborhood retail center, located at the corner of Center Boulevard and Southeast Kinsey Street. The plans explained every minute detail of the building, from how shrubs would be planted to how steps would be built.

Experience has allowed Tinner to point out whether the plans comply with city codes and regulations with a simple glance. His shelves are full of building code books, which is indicative of how complex the process has become. The most recent editions come in multiple volumes of 2-inch binders, while the 1978 edition is about the size of a day planner.

Tinner and his staff strive to make the construction process as streamlined as possible. They try to turn around building permits quickly, with either an approval or a detailed letter of needed compliances in about two weeks.

He said the same process takes about six months for those wishing to build in unincorporated King County.

"We really try to keep to this schedule because time is money," Tinner said. "The money lost ends up being paid by the guy paying the 30-year mortgage."

He predicts the building boom in Snoqualmie will last another seven to 10 years, depending on the economy. After that his job will be mostly maintenance and review, making sure everything built remains in good shape.

But until it slows down, Tinner has plenty to do. He still has Phase II of the Ridge to oversee as well as a rejuvenated downtown area.

"It's a good time for this city," he said.

You can reach Ben Cape at (425) 888-2311, or e-mail him at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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