Cassville alderman concerned over city's building codes

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Horner suggests codes may be too strict, thwart new business

Security Bank President Jon Horner, an alderman for the city of Cassville, said the city's building codes could use a look-over, believing they may be doing harm to Cassville growth.

"The feedback I'm getting from those looking to invest in our community and trying to build is that building codes are too restrictive, and that's why we're not seeing as much building in Cassville," he said.

Cassville's codes are from the 2006 international standard of building codes, a standard that changes every three years.

"A lot of cities have used the 2006 codes," Horner said. "There's also a 2009 and 2012, and essentially they just add more complexity. I would like for us to be able to, for projects of 5,000 square feet or less, use the codes as a reference, not as absolute law. Then, with larger projects, we should stay with the codes as the law and use that process on it.

"What I'm trying to do is start a discussion on having a balance between safety and growth and finding what's just right, and what is just right is a matter of opinion. The international codes we have are 760 pages long. Just a section on roofing is over 120 sections and subsections, so I think this is what is scaring off people from wanting to invest and build.

Horner said there are lot of neighboring communities that have the same codes, and are having success in building.

"I think they are taking a two-tiered approach where they have local building inspectors and a more streamline, common-sense approach to those projects where it's not as costly or burdensome," he said. "Then, they have someone who serves as an inspector for the large projects, like a school, Walmart or Lowe's."

Horner said during a recent planning and zoning meeting, he was advised to present a formal proposal outlining his ideas, which, once received, will bring on a hearing.

"We had a good dialogue on it," Horner said. "We agreed there needs to be some flexibility on the smaller projects. It's just a matter of how we get to that point. One person's idea of flexibility may be totally different, and I think that's where we'll get this fine-tuned."

Horner said the circumstances that brought the issue to his attention are not connected with loans situations, but have come from people who know he is on city council and have approached him.

Terry Heinz has a different perspective.

"I'm a proponent of the building codes," he said. "The plan that's been proposed by Mr. Horner is to do away with the codes and hire a non-certified inspector. It makes no logical sense. I do not believe in the premise that people will not build in Cassville because of building codes. I believe people don't build because there are not enough job opportunities to warrant building in Cassville.

"I think Mr. Horner is speaking for some other parties and don't believe this is his personal idea or belief, and I think it's pretty unethical and deplorable, and since he's involved so heavily in the bank this may be a conflict of interest for him to get rid of building codes so people can just build."

Heinz said building codes can be complex, but are necessary for public safety.

"There are hundreds of pages in the different code books, but that doesn't mean that you need to ignore the basic codes," he said. "These are minimum building codes that people need to do to make buildings safe and healthy. We currently have a guy who's very well-qualified and has all the certification. So, to just do away with the codes and do away with someone who is not familiar with codes or certified, what's he going to inspect? Under what auspices is he going to say, this is OK or not OK. It would just be his opinion. We might as well not have an inspector."

Heinz said he did not agree with Horner's idea to use a local contractor for smaller projects.

"There would not be any compromise with me on something like that," he said. "Also, he keeps changing his proposal, and I thought I could come to an agreement, but since he has added the part that does away with the codes, anything that I might agree with gets ridiculous. It's not good for the city of Cassville, and I totally reject his proposal."

Another possible cause for discouraging building in Cassville, Heinz said, is availability of building sites due to the flood plane.

"I would guess good building sites are limited, plus not being able to get flood insurance," he said. "That's going to be a handicap that we're probably going to face forever."

Roger Day, who is contracted to provide inspections for Cassville, and inspected Dollar Tree and Hibbett Sports, said codes are about safety.

Day inspects the foundation of buildings, plumbing, framing, mechanical and electrical, HVAC and does final inspections.

"If everything passes the building owner is issued a certificate of occupancy," he said. "There's very little in the codes that's random pickiness. The thrust of it has to do with safety -- that your floor is heavy enough and won't collapse, your electric outlets spaced far enough apart, etc. There's a reason for everything in them.

"The title, scope and purpose of the code is to provide minimum requirements to safeguard the public. When you say flexibility, I don't know what there could be in terms of physical requirements, because the code is minimum requirements. If you read through Chapter 1 of the codes, it explains the reason for the code and the role of the city. A code is a standard of safety that has been developed by professionals for many years, so if you're looking for the right way to build, you go by the codes."

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