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Longview's building codes update gets resistance at public forum

By Richard Yeakley
April 2, 2014 at 11 p.m.

A plan to update Longview's building codes was met with resistance Wednesday at a public forum attended by city officials and local builders and developers.

The new codes, which must be approved by the City Council, likely would increase the building cost of homes and other structures but also would prevent an increase in insurance rates.

"I'm afraid I am going to have to disagree with you ... if you think that this is not politically motivated with the government sticking their hand into every detail ... they just continue to regulate," said Jim Fisher, who asked why the city is willing to change its codes because of the findings of a private organization. "I am not saying we don't need the change; all I am saying is where do you come to the point where they are detailing every little tiny detail?"

The codes, issued by the International Code Council, the national creator of gold standard safety codes.

Fisher spoke at the forum Wednesday attended by about 20 builders and developers at the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

Fisher did agree that the updated codes could help Longview.

"There probably are some very viable changes that need to be made," he said.

The meeting was one of several public input opportunities as the city considers changing the codes. There is no set time frame for the new codes to go into effect.

The move to change the codes came after an audit by the Insurance Services Office found Longview could be bumped down six notches on the organization's classification because of outdated regulations.

Building official Skip Whittle said the lower classification would correlate with higher insurance rates for residents and builders across the city, although the organization did not make it clear how much it would affect rates.

"The city of Longview currently operates under the 2003 International Building Code. ... We have had this code adopted since 2006, and consequently we are operating under a set of codes that are considerably out of date." Whittle said.

"The question arises from time to time why we haven't adopted a different code. Probably the best answer for that is because it has worked for us so far. If it's not broke, don't fix it."

He said the city considered updating codes before the audit.

If the city does not update the codes to the 2012 International Building Code, Longview's classification would change from Class 3 to Class 9 for residential and commercial/industrial properties.

One of Fisher's concerns is whether the city could adjust the updated code if needed.

However, builder Scott Hamilton told Whittle he prefers when the city does not amend codes.

Whittle told the developers about several key changes between the 2003 and 2012 codes, including requiring a carbon monoxide detector in all new residences.

The new codes also would require improved fire sprinkler systems for some medical facilities and places where many people gather, such as bars and night clubs.

Whittle has said the change between the versions of the code is not substantial, and building inspectors already have been trained and certified on the newest regulations.



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