Building codes

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Building codes

Post by Chuck on Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:24 am

I watched the selectmenís meeting on TV and saw the drama about the building not being up to code. After watching that meeting, I have to say that Rumford has a serious problem with the new building codes that weíve passed. I want safe building for tenants but it needs to be done rationally. To ask someone that owns a building to start tearing out walls and building new staircases because you need an extra 2 inches in width is not rational. I donít even this ití sane.

Our building code needs to be two tiered. One code for new construction and another for already existing structures. Have existing structures fix the more serious code violations that are reasonable to expect to be done in todayís economic conditions. Iím guessing landlords are already on the edge with the price of heat. Does our town selectman want to close them all down?

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:44 am

I believe the goal is to have safe buildings in our town. Perhaps you were not around when a local elderly woman had to be removed from her apartment through a kitchen window using the ladder truck because ambulance personnel couldn't bring her down the stairs. Luckily, the reason for her need for an ambulance was not life threatening. There are a number of apartments where ambulance personnel risk their own safety due to deteriorated buildings. If they, or any other person were to get hurt, and the town knew about the problem, our town could be held liable.

When ordinances are proposed, the people rarely ask any questions. They just rubber stamp most of them assuming that they are in the best interest of the town. Recently, the Land Use Ordinance Committee developed zoning laws for the town. One member, Phil Blampied, had the fortitude to stand up and oppose the final draft of the committee. He noted that enforcement of the proposed ordinance would have crippled our community by making most of the structures non-conforming. His comments put a kybosh to the effort. By the way, he also noted that another ordinance that is on the books includes open-water fishing provisions despite the fact that we have no ocean frontage in the town. I have suggested to members of the selectmen that a committee be formed to review all of the ordinances for revision and removal of those that aren't applicable.

The Internet states that Rumford has an ordinance making it illegal for a tenant to bite his/her landlord. I have searched the current ordinances and am pleased to say that I cannot find such an ordinance. This shows that somewhere in the past, someone had the sense to remove such ordinances. While it makes sense that it should be illegal to bite your landlord, I believe that a simple assault & battery charge would cover the situation. Smile

I don't expect that our town leadership will jump to revise all of the ordinances right away. they have so much more going on that is more important. Perhaps if our town hadn't been neglected for the past 20 years, our current board would have time to address this issue. Unfortunately, now they are in the position of playing catch-up on, and restructuring the fiscal process to assure accountability.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:24 am

I wonder if the townspeople supported this ordinance change, thinking it would throw more work to local contractors and also help to eliminate Section 8 tenants. How could they foresee that in conjunction with the higher oil prices, the only tenants a landlord might afford would be those on section 8? It seems to me that whenever I try to control something it ends up controlling me.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:29 am

BTW, you're right about Phil - he also stood up at the town meeting in '07 and explained how the building code would affect the town. Kevin, I agree with most of what you say except for the part where the current selectmen have to fix the past. Mr. B, for one was in support of this ordinance change until that night when Phil stood up, then I heard him say something like, wow, I must have been on vacation when that one passed, I can see now how this wouldn't be good for us... oops, too late. Blaming whose fault it is doesn't solve the problem and it IS a problem.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Phil Blampied on Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:32 am

There may be a way to mitigate the damage being done to our community by the unrealistically strict codes the town has adopted.

This includes the ICC residential building code, but especially the National Fire and Life Safety Code.

The state has now required all towns to use the ICC code, but the NFLSC situation is more complex. Towns are not "required" to have it, although if the Fire Marshall inspects something in town, they will be using the NFLSC. However, the Fire Marshall has little interest or time to do all the inspections in town. It's left up to the local code and fire officials and they do have some leeway. HOWEVER, if the town has adopted the NFLSC as its ordinance, as Rumford has, the leeway is gone.

Three possible solutions:

1) Property owners can appeal unreasonable orders to the Board of Appeals under what is called an "administrative appeal". The Board is allowed to overturn any official decision that can be demonstrated to be wrong. The trick here would be to prove that the code officer or fire chief has misunderstood or misapplied the codes, so it wouldn't work in many cases, although sometimes a Board will find a code officer's decision so unreasonable that, even if it does have some standing in law, they will figure out a way to call it wrong...

2) Someone needs to read through the Fire and Life Safety Code and see if it has a provision for variances. If so, property owners can appeal to the Board for a variance. This action implies that the property owner agrees with the code officer/fire chief's interpretation and application of the code, but just wants to be let off from having to comply with it. To get such a "variance", the property owner must meet the undue hardship standard, which includes several aspects, including that the code violation was not caused by the property owner (ie: they didn't put up a new building in deliberate violation of some code provisions) and that the property would be rendered essentially without value without the variance. I think the fire code provisions that make the buildings unrepairable meet those requirements.

3) the town has the right to amend both the ICC code and the fire code to make them less unreasonable when it comes to historic structures. It would be a lot of committee work, but it can be done.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2008 3:50 pm

Phil,

Thank you for your informed and thorough response to this question. You clearly have saved the town from making a far worse mistake than it has already made and it sounds like you may be able to help the selectmen (and this community) with what could be a real nightmare.

Iím glad youíre here and I admire and appreciate your efforts.

Admin
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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2008 3:57 pm

Timeout said:

It seems to me that whenever I try to control something it ends up controlling me.
Isn't that often the truth.

Here's another one I often find to be true.

Whenever I seek to be mean or vengeful towards someone else, it always seems
to hurt me far worse than it hurts the target of my vengeance.

Anyone else ever notice that?

(I know I'm off the subject but it seemed to fit here.)

Admin
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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:11 pm

Kevin,

Iím with Timeout here. You have posted a fantastic piece of information here and Iím glad to be informed of the history of the building codes efforts.

I just disagree with pasting blame on everything thatís not right with the town on the previous town leadership. They have suffered enough unfair, unjust criticism and I believe they did what they thought was right for the town given the time they were here. Letís thank them for their efforts and leave them in peace.

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:19 pm

Admin,
Just because they may have been blamed unjustly, doesn't mean that they are immune from responsibility for what they have doen wrong. I would be glad to hear your rebuttal to my comments regarding their neglect of our town.
Kevin

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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:54 pm

KevinNSaisi wrote:Admin,
Just because they may have been blamed unjustly, doesn't mean that they are immune from responsibility for what they have doen wrong.
Kevin

If we agree they have been blamed unjustly, then we should be actively trying to right that injustice, not continuing to pile on.

In fairness, I don't believe they did everything right all the time. Who does? I do believe they tried their best to do what was right for the town and the community to the best of their ability.

It's no coincidence that the day after Steve Eldrige and Jolene spoke publicly about not being sure they supported the casino, all hell broke loose for them. I think they were skewered by dirty politics in this town to silence their voices and bully though support for a referendum that was clearly going to be an immense benefit to a select few in this town.

I see Jolene volunteering at the hospital and at Black Mountain. She minds her business and does her best to help the town and the people in it and the only benefit she gets is the satisfaction of helping someone else that needs it. She sure isn't getting rich. She sure isn't the monster that TRR has made her out to be.

When good people are hurt in this town for benevolently speaking their mind, it generates a lot of anger.

I'm willing to move on and try to heal. Maybe it's time we all do.

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 03, 2008 6:21 pm

Oh, please don't open a can of worms then say we should leave it alone.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:03 pm

KevinNSaisi wrote:Admin,
Just because they may have been blamed unjustly, doesn't mean that they are immune from responsibility for what they have doen wrong.
Kevin

On first glance, I would have said that I didn't open it, you did. After further reflection perhaps you didn't. You may have just been making a general statement.

I guess I'm just pretty sensitive about this issue.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:08 pm

Okay, and now back to building codes and other fascinating debate. Do we need the code we have? Could we have worked better with just the state-mandated ICC code?. Maybe the new ordinance isn't working for us? What is the possibility of creating a sub-code for rehabilitation like Chuck mentioned? A rehabilitation code should be designed to make rennovation and rehabilitation of existing structures easier and therefore a good alternative to building new. Of course building new is probably easier and cheaper but then what do we do with our downtown areas if we don't address this?

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:14 pm

What I've read on the codes is that they are written with room for innovation but code enforcers in general tend to be conservative. Any thoughts? Phil makes the suggestion in his post - can we be more innovative with application of the codes we have in place?

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:39 pm

In my experience, more laws just make more of a mess. Especially when they are written by politicians and "professional organizations" (read: lobbyists).

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:46 pm

Admin wrote:
KevinNSaisi wrote:Admin,
Just because they may have been blamed unjustly, doesn't mean that they are immune from responsibility for what they have doen wrong.
Kevin

On first glance, I would have said that I didn't open it, you did. After further reflection perhaps you didn't. You may have just been making a general statement.

I guess I'm just pretty sensitive about this issue.

We all were very sensitive at one point, but I sincerely believe that our community is starting to come together. I really don't want to re-hash the debates of the last two years. However, I also don't believe it is responsible to deny responsibility where it lays. Over the past 20 years, oru community infastructure has deteriorated due to neglect. If you are stating that our selectmen had nothing to do with the failure to maintain our buildings, sidewalks and roads as they should be, then I guess you are entitled to your opinion, but please don't expect to make such commments unchallenged in public.

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Re: Building codes

Post by marktripp on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:22 pm

What is the dollar amount we put on someoneís life?

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Re: Building codes

Post by marktripp on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:25 pm

In my opinion when you start to vary from something, what is too far? If you ok John Doe 3 feet why canít I have 3 feet 6 inches and Johnís neighbor have 4 feet?( The figures are irrelevant, just figures)


Last edited by marktripp on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:26 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added a word)

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Re: Building codes

Post by Chuck on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:47 pm

marktripp wrote:In my opinion when you start to vary from something, what is too far? If you ok John Doe 3 feet why canít I have 3 feet 6 inches and Johnís neighbor have 4 feet?( The figures are irrelevant, just figures)

Good question Mark. We should be able to evacuate someone down the stairway so there should be minimum standards for existing buildings.

I liked Phil's post. I think he brought some good information about this.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:16 am

Couple of questions just to help me understand better (aka learn something):

Kevin, when you say too many laws, do you mean we don't need a rehab code or do you mean we don't need the code we adopted or do you mean something else completely? - just trying to clarify your meaning.

Mark, I understand your point on being fair across the board. How do we define fair if the laws make you have to maybe close your building, while I have an extra inch on something and so I get to keep mine open? Do codes or rules provide equity? (think of a speeding ticket for a wealthy person vs. non-wealthy) How much DO we vary from the standard and still ensure safety? Are the codes more stringent than they need to be because the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the enforcer or a municipality? I don't know the answers to these questions - trying to get my head around the topic.

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:06 am

Timeout wrote:Couple of questions just to help me understand better (aka learn something):

Kevin, when you say too many laws, do you mean we don't need a rehab code or do you mean we don't need the code we adopted or do you mean something else completely? - just trying to clarify your meaning.

Mark, I understand your point on being fair across the board. How do we define fair if the laws make you have to maybe close your building, while I have an extra inch on something and so I get to keep mine open? Do codes or rules provide equity? (think of a speeding ticket for a wealthy person vs. non-wealthy) How much DO we vary from the standard and still ensure safety? Are the codes more stringent than they need to be because the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the enforcer or a municipality? I don't know the answers to these questions - trying to get my head around the topic.

Timeout,
My comment was based upon the monterous codes created by national agencies with no regard for the communities in which they are enforced. Standardized codes save time, but they attempt to hold small community landowners to the same standard as large city entities. What is fiscally possible for a multi-billion dollar corporation may not be as easily attained by a small town landlord. In our own towns, we take those documents, change the name of the town and make it a law. The government is trying too hard to control everything we do (but they do it with a smile on their face and a "rationale" so that we don't know we are being controlled). I believe in standards, but we need to be reasonable.
Kevin

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:18 am

Okay, so are you saying that the state-mandated ICC is the problem? Still not sure if I get it.

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:47 am

Timeout wrote:Okay, so are you saying that the state-mandated ICC is the problem? Still not sure if I get it.

That and the life safety code and all other cookie-cutter codes.

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Re: Building codes

Post by Timeout on Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:58 am

So if ICC is state mandated, what do you suggest instead?

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Re: Building codes

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:47 am

Take legal action against them for interfering in town government. I still think we should have faught the SAD merger.

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