EDITORIAL: Building codes

By NEMS Daily Journal

Lee County’s Board of Supervisors appears headed toward unrushed and extensive discussions of a county building code for unincorporated rural areas based on the response of four supervisors a day after 1st District Supervisor Phil Morgan surprised his peers by advocating and predicting code adoption within a year.
We agree with supervisors who say a deliberate approach is necessary. Any imposition of a code defining the adequacy of structures is a big change for Lee County’s unincorporated areas where code standards are minimal. However, we believe a strong building code assuring quality and safety would increase home and structure values and protect the investments of owners.
Morgan, who previously had not voiced support for a county building code, said Monday the board supports adoption and that it is backed, too, by the Community Development Foundation. He said the board had discussed the idea for years without action. He cited a new residential development in his district as the reason for his interest.
Board President Darrell Rankin of the 3rd District, Bobby Smith of the 2nd District, Tommie Lee Ivy of the 4th District, and Joe McKinney of the 5th District all said the idea of a building code has not been discussed substantively in a formal way and that a thorough review is needed.
Rankin said he advocated discussion of a building code early in his term, which started in 2008, but dropped it after it became apparent that a majority opposed it.
Smith said he believes a code should be adopted to ensure quality construction in the county, but he said the full board has not pursued the idea. Smith, himself a homebuilder in private business, said, “We don’t need to have just any fella in a pickup with a tool box going out and building houses.”
Ivy said he will remain opposed to a building code until the full board thoroughly discusses all the issues and lays out what a code would contain. He said he is opposed generally to any code that would place an additional financial burden on “rural people,” many of whom he described as poor or less well off than residents of municipalities.
McKinney said he “hates to tell people what they can and cannot do with their property,” and has concerns about costs, but he said he would support a full discussion of a building code.
Building codes should not be viewed as restrictions but as required higher standards – protections for property owners and, many times, for neighbors, too.