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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission doesn't embrace the idea of building codes

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

MOUND CITY – Linn County Planning and Zoning Administrator Darin Wilson met with the Linn County commissioners on Monday, Dec. 12, to discuss pricing for permits and whether they would want to add any building codes to the county.

Wilson told the commissioners that building codes had come up in the meetings for zoning regulations, but he clarified that building codes are not a part of zoning regulations other than the cost or procedure for charging.

Wilson said that if the commissioners did want to have some building codes, they could just pick and choose what codes they wanted to inspect like the county’s sanitation policy has done.

The question came up about who would do the inspections.

Wilson said he had looked into what it took to be a certified building inspector. He said that through the International Code Council (ICC) the costs for study guides for each area, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and other trades cost $150 and the tests for each area was $200.

Wilson said that, as an alternative, the county could hire a third party to do inspections. He said that he had heard from other counties that the third party inspections could be pricey. Wilson said that he did not think the county could get its fees high enough to pay for those inspections.

Wilson reiterated that he was just giving the commissioners some information about what other counties, Miami and Franklin, charge for permits.

Wilson said he was also bringing up building codes because in the comprehensive plan surveys, 21% of the people who answered did not want building codes. That seems to say that 79% did want building codes put in place.

At present Linn Valley Lakes has building codes and Mound City is looking into adopting the International Building Codes (IBC) codes.

Commissioner Rick James told Wilson that if the county adopted building codes, Wilson would be inundated with inspections.

Commission Chair Jim Johnson said that it would put pressure on the small towns.

County Counselor Gary Thompson pointed out that if the county adopted building codes, those codes would only apply to structures outside of incorporated cities. Cities can have whatever codes they want.

Thompson said that while some of the lakes’ property owner associations (POA) have some codes, the only codes that the county would enforce at the lakes would be the county’s codes if they were more strict than the POAs’.

James said there were just some things he would leave off of Wilson’s suggestions.

“It’s Linn County, and I believe that’s why people, when they in fact do move here, they have a little leniency in what they do,” said James. “ I don’t want to walk into peoples houses and say you have a finished basement and take pictures and all that stuff.”

“That’s why I wanted to give you guys chance to think about and discuss it and make a decision on whether we want to move forward on it or if we want to go anywhere in between of a full blown code or doing nothing,” said Wilson.

“The way I feel about this is once we start this where do we stop?” Asked Johnson.

Commissioner Danny McCullough said that he did not see how Linn County could police all of that. He asked if the only building codes they had right now were foundations.

Wilson said there were building inspections for mobile home foundations but nothing for stick built foundations.

“That’s weird to me anyway. How would we do that? Would they have to have some kind of engineered plan that we just say, ‘OK, looks like you guys have that stamped and we say okay on it?’” asked McCullough.

McCullough asked if they would have to have a certified person in each area.

Thompson said the county could have somebody certified as a building inspector and if he is certified as a building inspector he would be able to inspect in all of those areas.

McCullough said that he did not work in Miami County because of their strict regulations.

Johnson pointed out that there are people in Linn County living in travel trailers.

Wilson said there was a regulation that people cannot live in an recreational vehicle (RV) year round, but right now the question was what is year round.

James said the county violates that regulation by allowing RVs to park permanently at the Linn County Park.

Wilson said there were some ideas about designating areas where people could live in RVs.

Wilson said that he was asking these questions because he gets a lot of calls about what requires a permit and if there are building codes and he was throwing this out to the commissioners to see what direction they wanted to go.

Thompson wanted to clarify for the public that this was just being discussed and nothing was being done at this time.

Wilson said that there had been 101 building permits issued so far for 2022. In a later phone conversation, Wilson said that 55 to 60 of those would have been projects that needed to be inspected like houses, room additions, and garages.

Wilson said that he could see inspecting foundations, rough-in before drywall, plumbing, electrical, framing, HVAC, and then after the drywall was finished, a final inspection.

Wilson also asked the commissioners to look over the building permit applications that he had made more comprehensive. He also asked them to look over the fees charged in Linn County as compared to fees for conditional use permits, building permits, etc. in Miami and Franklin. For example, the fee for a conditional-use permit in Linn County is $250, $270 in Franklin County, and $500 in Miami County.

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