Building on faulty premises

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Homebuyers, young couples and retirees may need to learn the meaning of buyer beware. Some of our Kootenai County commissioners do not believe there is a need for the county (not cities) to issue building permits. If adopted, the need for “compliance with building codes will no longer be mandatory.” A local resident “supports the commissioners’ decision in name of property rights and less cost and regulation.”

Saving money or reducing the government staffing should never be the reason to rescind appropriate regulation. We elect commissioners to watch over the budget, to ensure the most cost efficient and cost effective manner of providing government services. This is their job while ensuring the health and welfare of the people. These are not contradictory but should complement each other, i.e. cost effective and proper regulation.

No regulation on land use contributed significantly to the damage due to flooding in Houston. Hurricane Andrew caused substantial storm damage in South Florida in 1992 even though a strong building code existed. The code was reviewed and updated to correct any deficiencies. The building code was not eliminated. Common sense said adjustment, not elimination, was the correct option.

There are inspections required for construction today. The purpose is quality construction and public safety. If a couple moves here and invests their savings in a home, how do they know the building is well constructed? Will the roof support the weight of a heavy snowfall? Are trusses and joists adequate to support the reasonable weight loads without sagging or, worse, collapsing? How does the rainwater drain rather than stand, leading to problems?

Building on the side of a mountain requires a design to prevent it from shifting. The removal of excessive trees creates a mudslide potential which is a problem for both the house above and the ones below. If this has a familiar sound, think California. Many, maybe most of us don’t know all the problems and issues involved in building a safe structure. We rely on architects and contractors to build properly in accordance with the building code.

I do believe that the people mentioned in the article are concerned for safety and quality of life. Too often many of us let our political perspectives cloud over our common sense. We constantly hear and maybe say get government off our back or we need more regulations. These become absolutes instead of thoughts which may reflect some incident on any given day. Saying does not make it so or correct and certainly doesn’t make it non-negotiable. Getting stuck in our ways can get in the way of our common sense about what is good for us and our community.

As a final note, if I were a banker with any common sense, why would I give a loan to build something to no particular standards? Why would an insurer provide insurance for a structure not subject to any code or inspections? My common sense tells me who pays for these problems is all of us. This sounds like the road to litigation to me, not quality construction and public safety.

• • •

Phil Ward is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He lives in Coeur d’Alene.

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