Council approves first reading of resolution impacting building codes

By Scott Bestul

These codes would set minimum standards for construction and remodeling of residences in Decorah. 

The Decorah City Council has approved the first reading of Resolution 1272, an ordinance which would establish building codes for the city. These codes would set minimum standards for construction and remodeling of residences in Decorah. 
In discussion regarding the matter at the Monday, April 5 meeting, Councilor Steve Zittergruen noted he’d heard concerns from builders and contractors about potential cost increases if the codes were adopted.
Councilor Steve Luse responded “I think the cost to the city would be bigger without these codes,” he said. “There have been houses built without these standards. I feel it is vehemently important that this pass.” The vote was unanimous to adopt the resolution. 
In a follow-up discussion Greg Swanson, Decorah’s Compliance Officer, said adopting the resolution “updated and streamlined the process” of obtaining a building permit and following building codes. “Even before this came into being, you needed a building permit,” he said. 

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While minor projects, such as replacing a door or carpeting, might not require a permit, larger projects likely will, according to Swanson. 
“When in doubt, just call city hall and tell us about your project and we’ll make the determination,” he said. “Homeowners doing a major remodel likely don’t know the codes and standards and we can provide that information when we issue the permit. It’s really about understanding minimum standards and employing them in construction projects.”
One of the main changes contractors and homeowners might notice are site visits and inspections. 
“That will all be part of the process now and it wasn’t before,” Swanson said. Fines will be issued for violations, with the fee(s) dependent on the size and valuation of the project. 
Councilor Luse said adopting an updated set of building codes had actually been an issue for several years. 
“I’ve been approached by several contractors and workers in lumber yards who had concerns about the quality of construction in the city,” he said. “This is a simple adoption of the state codes by the city. It will help ensure standards of construction are met.”
The Council will consider public input or commentary before formally adopting the resolution upon the completion of a second and third reading. 

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