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BoCC takes action on building industry items

In an effort to aid the building industry, the Archuleta County Building Department brought three agenda items before the Board of County Commissioners at their regular meeting March 16. All passed unanimously.

Prefacing the three agenda items, Rick Bellis, director of county development, explained that, in an effort to reach out to the building industry, the county planning department met with the Builders Association of Pagosa Springs and the utilities committee in January to discuss areas of the building code that could be modified or improved to provide greater flexibility in cost and materials used.

“We’re trying to give as much flexibility as possible,” Bellis said. In addition, Bellis noted that, because of the unique geography of Archuleta County, some of the building codes are a challenge.

The first of the items changed language in the building code to the language used in the 2009 International Residential Code, which more expressly addresses the use of unvented roof closures than the 2006 IRC, which the county adopted and currently uses. The county has not adopted the 2009 IRC.

“This is a practice that, currently, has been going on for years in the community anyway,” Bellis said. “We have some builders that prefer to do a sealed roof assembly and some that prefer vented to let the moisture out.”

Bellis added that the change was an effort to make it easier for builders to be sure they are complying with codes, as well as allowing for greater flexibility of materials and practices that have come about since the adoption of the 2006 language.

The second of the items allows builders and homeowners to forego implementing potentially undue radon mitigation methods by allowing them to sign a waiver of liability upon demonstrating radon is not a risk. The recommendation passed contingent upon review of the waiver by County Attorney Todd Starr.

Previously, as part of the 2006 IRC adoption, the county adopted Appendix F, which deals with radon control methods and subsequently added to the cost and timeframe for construction in the area.

In presenting the recommendation to the BoCC, Bellis explained that a lot of variables control the risk of radon, including the unique geography of the area — some parts of the county do, indeed, have potential radon risks, while other portions are seemingly free of risk, based on testing by the CSU Extension office.

In order to sign the waiver, a builder and homeowner will have to demonstrate, through an expert, a sufficient map or a radon test kit, that there is no liability risk. The waiver would then have to be properly filed in order for the county to show due diligence in the matter and to have record of the waiver tied to the house, Bellis explained.

“We think it’ll make us more competitive in the building process, we think it’ll help us with the shortness of the season and we think it doesn’t hurt anyone in the long run if the evidence is being provided,” Bellis said.

Commissioner John Ranson asked Bellis if he thought the liability waivers would present a problem in selling the home down the road, to which Bellis said that, because of current practices and requirements in Colorado, the waiver would likely be neutral in the sale of a home.

The last of the building items gives the building department the authority to perform inspections on manufactured homes.

Prior to the passing of the resolution, the inspections were seemingly few and far between and performed by three individuals — who, when solicited by the department for their opinion on the matter, said that the change would not greatly impact them, according to Bellis.

Bellis said not only will the change make it easier for those purchasing manufactured homes to have the homes inspected in a shorter time, but that the change will also save homeowners money and the codes that need to be met will be clearer for the manufacturers.

Upon researching private inspections, Bellis noted that the cost fell between $600 and $800 for the inspections, whereas the county will charge $200, a normal permitting fee.

“We think it’s a good thing for everybody in the long run,” Bellis said, explaining the other necessary portion of the change. “In order for us to do this, the state requires that we adopt their housing language (Resolution No. 38 of the State Housing Board of the State of Colorado),” which, he said, is what the state uses to “empower” the counties.

Ranson said the decision was not one the BoCC took lightly in the current economy. “We did a lot of work on this one to try to find out ... if this is going to hurt local jobs, people who are making a living doing this,” he said. “This one, to me, made a lot of sense.”