Commission argues case for, against adopting building codes
Linn County commissioners on Monday discussed how much inspection should the county do on new buildings outside city limits. (Wix file photo)
By Charlene Sims, Journal staff
MOUND CITY – The Linn County Commissioners and Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson discussed building codes in a workshop at the commission meeting on Monday, April 24.
Wilson said the purpose of the workshop with the commissioners was for him to either get some direction about which building codes to put in place or whether he should drop the issue. Wilson had sent the commissioners different ideas about different types of codes and different types of inspections prior to the meeting.
Wilson said that the county was not required to have a lot of building codes but could pick and choose what was important.
Wilson suggested that Linn County start small and just do final inspections that looked at building access as well as foundations.
Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked how the county would enforce this.
Wilson said that, if the county started small, he could handle he inspections until the county adopted the full set of codes.
Wilson said that he had not looked into the price of hiring someone, such as a contractor, to do the inspections. He said that unless the full International Residential Codes (IRC) were adopted, he could probably do it because there probably would only be one inspection a week or a month if they adopted the full code book.
Wilson told the commissioners that the International Residential Codes (IRC) offered online classes for $400. He could take the classes at his own pace.
County Counselor Gary Thompson said that the only place in Linn County that has the full code book is Linn Valley.
Wilson said that Mound City was discussing adopting codes.
County Counselor Gary Thompson said he thought it might be good just to make sure that houses had footings and were not just set on the ground.
McCullough asked if the county was performing any inspections now.
Wilson answered only on modular or mobile homes.
I don’t know why we inspect a crawl space but not a basement, said McCullough.
Wilson said the only other thing inspected was the sanitation systems, which would include septic tanks, holding tanks and lagoons.
Wilson said his idea was that when a person obtained a building permit, they would explain what and how they were building. That would include footings, plumbing, basement, how many bedrooms and baths. The owner would then notify the county that their building was finished and ready for inspection. After the inspection the owner would receive a certificate of occupancy.
“I’ve talked with contractors and everybody, and I don’t have anybody that is in favor of it,” said Johnson.
I’m truthfully not in favor of them, but I think we should have something,” said McCullough, who owns a construction company.
Commissioner Jason Hightower asked, “What about even the final inspection, is that a non-starter for you guys as well? That we are going out there and making sure that they built what they said they were going to build?”
Commissioner Jim Johnson said that the appraiser would find out what they built.
Wilson said that right now the county gives people a building permit, and if they build something different it may be three years before the appraiser gets out to inspect the structure.
Wilson told the commissioners that the appraisers have found numerous “agricultural” buildings that have three and four bedrooms, full kitchen and they are living in it.
Johnson asked what the final inspection included.
Wilson said that in the packet he sent commissioners, there was a list of the items the county could inspect. They include that doorways are handicapped accessible, ventilations on foundations, foundations or the inspector can just go in and inspect and see that built what they said they were going to build.
“I’m good with where we are at, myself,” said Johnson.
Hightower said he leaned toward the final inspection just to make sure they are doing what they said on the permit.
Thompson said he had talked with Wilson and said the county must have a certificate of final occupancy. The inspector would go out and look it over, and if the inspector saw anything that looked like a health or safety hazard, the inspector would refuse to grant the certificate of occupancy.
Darin said that sanitation could also be tied in, because when he does a sanitation inspection it is only from the outside of the house to the lateral field. But gray water can be tied into that.
Wilson pointed out that on page 38 of the comprehensive plan adopted last year shows that most people in Linn County is in favor of some type of building codes.
Are those homeowners or renters, asked McCullough.
Hightower said he thought it was citizens on the most part. It was concerned citizens, renters aren’t usually that concerned.
Johnson said once you start with building codes you will continue putting them in there.
“Once we start, we won’t stop,” said Johnson.
Hightower said that the final building inspection would make sure that the people were building what they said they were going to build and it would get on the tax roll appropriately.
“If somebody turns in on their building permit that they are putting in living quarters, and they are paying a full tax on it from the git-go, and somebody is skirting that, you know, we are doing disservice to that person that is paying their share,” said Hightower.
McCullough said he would be in favor of the final inspection.
Thompson said all county would be doing is checking to see if they are building the three-bedroom house they said they were building.
So you are going to go in the house and inspect everything?” asked Johnson.
Wilson said after the inspection confirms the building match the permit and the certificate of occupancy is issued, the information would go to the appraiser.
“Why can’t we just stop there?” asked Hightower.
“Once you start, you won’t stop,” said Johnson.
Wilson said that people will always want more, but it is governed by the county.
Hightower said he thought it was a start and he did not think Linn County was jumping to be Miami County.
McCullough said that he wanted his community to have input if they were going to add codes.
Thompson said he would prepare a regulation that requires an inspection had to be done before you can occupy a building and spell out what that inspection entails.
You are not going to let them move in until you OK it, is that what you are saying?” asked Johnson. “Nobody is going to be living there until you OK it?”
“What’s the point of having a building permit unless we check it at the very end?” asked McCullough.
“Where are you going to stop?” asked Johnson. “Who is going to decide when it is completed?”
Wilson said that some counties have a temporary occupancy as long as they have
running water, bathroom, kitchen, flooring doesn’t have to be done, and walls have to be complete, electrical has to be complete and plumbing has to be complete. Once the owner complete it, the owner has to come back and get final occupancy permit.
Thompson said that it would just determine whether it was fit to occupy. It is a safety and health concern and getting it on the tax roll.
Thompson will do a draft of the regulation for the commissioners to review.