Bogle wants to be bridge, not block, for business
By Karissa Minn and Emily Ford
SALISBURY - Pete Bogle says he'll bring a new perspective as head of the county inspections department, and local business owners say that might be just what it needs.
Bogle, a local architect, will oversee inspections as Rowan County's new building codes enforcement director starting Oct. 29.
"A lot of what I do as an architect has to do with how to creatively approach the building code," Bogle said. "There are many paths through the building code, and knowing how to use it in the right ways is a tool we as architects have to use. That's something that, honestly, inspections departments should be able to offer."
He said building codes enforcement should be more of a quality assurance department that helps people, rather than "just a department that's going to say 'no' and be a stumbling block."
The county's inspections department has been criticized for years as unfriendly and not cooperative.
Many business owners, developers, architects and contractors have said former employees in the inspections department slowed economic development in Salisbury and Rowan by nitpicking plans, failing to communicate and requiring version after version of design plans. They describe an environment of inflexibility, unresponsiveness and even arrogance.
Bogle said that he has gotten along well with the county inspectors while working at Ramsay, Burgin & Smith Architects, but that's learned skill.
He said it's important for developers to know how to present their projects to building inspectors, because the inspectors can only interpret what they're given.
"That's something I can bring to the job," he said, "being able to draw that information from the developer and from the designer."
Bogle said he's excited to start leading the department. He's not coming in to fix something that's broken, he said, but rather to help along the repair process.
"A lot of good change is already happening," he said.
Part of Bogle's day as inspections director will be spent at the city of Salisbury's "one-stop shop" for permitting, and part will be spent in the county office.
"That's one of the big goals - being a bridge between the county and city when it comes to development," he said. "I've worked well with the city, and I know them pretty well." Bogle said he also has expertise in the state rehabilitation code, which focuses on making older buildings better rather than strictly meeting every standard. Where other architects might not apply the rehab code, Bogle said he has found ways to use it to save builders hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bogle has spent 15 years working for Ramsay, Burgin & Smith Architects in Salisbury, and he said he'll hate to leave it.
"That, honestly, is the hardest part about making this move, because I love where I work," Bogle said. "I love the people there, and I love getting to be an architect."
But there's a creative side to his new job, too, and he said he's looking forward to getting to know the county staff.
Burgin described Bogle, who is married and has two children, as having a penchant for helping people.
"He lives that. Even his faith is how do you help people succeed," Burgin said. "That's kind of a different perspective than what we're used to around here."
Burgin said he expects Bogle to do things differently as the head of building code enforcement.
Smart and with a good sense of humor, Bogle won't ignore the code or say yes to plans that don't pass muster, Burgin said.
But along with a "no" will come specific suggestions about how architects and developers can change plans to meet the code and still accomplish their goals, he said.
Rather than leave architects or contractors to do their own analysis and bring back plan after plan, Bogle will use a proactive approach and help project managers work through design issues to come up with mutually agreeable solutions, Burgin said.
Bogle understands what the code needs to accomplish for health and safety, but he also knows the business from the development side, Burgin said.
"He will bring that and apply it," he said.
That's music to the ears of Ariella Sanchez, owner of the new Ibiza Deli on South Fulton Street, who submitted four plans to the county at a cost of $3,000 before finally winning approval.
Former inspectors offered no guidance or suggestions, just denials, Sanchez said.
While Sanchez doesn't know Bogle, she said having an architect in charge of building code enforcement makes sense in a city like Salisbury with so many historic properties. Ibiza Deli and Mambo Grill, which Sanchez also owns, are located in the original Foil Grocery store.
"We need someone who knows the code but is still trying to maintain the integrity of the town," Sanchez said.
While Sanchez finally got Ibiza off the ground, Mikey Wetzel is still struggling to open Go Burrito, another new eatery planned for downtown Salisbury.
Wetzel's obstacle now is financing, not permitting. The project's pricetag - initially $350,000, including purchase of the old Carousel Cafe building on West Fisher Street - is now up to $750,000, due in part to unexpected expenses required by the government, like sprinklers, Wetzel said.
Wetzel added a rooftop bar to his plans, which bumped up the price considerably, he said.
County inspectors didn't seem to care whether he met the design requirements to qualify for $200,000 in state and federal tax credits, Wetzel said. Without the credits, which are awarded for redeveloping historic properties, Wetzel said the project would die.
"Once again, I was finding inflexibility from the county," he said.
Things have improved, and Go Burrito should open by the end of the year, Wetzel said. He was pleased to hear the county has hired a local architect to direct building code enforcement but skeptical about how much Bogle will help move projects forward.
"It sounds great because he's been on the other side of the fence for a long time," Wetzel said. "But he's not getting paid so people get tax credits and people in Salisbury have a cool place to hang out."