Open Letter to Chaffee County Commissioners Regarding Revised Building Codes

Chaffee County Commissioners: Dave Potts, Greg Felt, Keith Baker

On January 9, 2018, you are scheduled to hold a public hearing regarding adoption of revised building, fire and other codes. Adoption of these codes will have little affect on my business, because I am at the close of my career and the new code will be like past codes: better in some ways and worse in others, and fortunately for all far too complex to be enforceable. I do want to address a couple of provisions that the Building Department has included in the code adoption process that you should consider very carefully before you choose to adopt.

Section 18 recommends that the building official be allowed to make changes to the code at his discretion. The current building official is certainly very professional and would not abuse this provision. That has not been the case with his most recent predecessors and there is no guarantee that Mr. Swallow will remain the building official for the duration of this code adoption. Currently the process is that the Board of Review is given the task of making decisions recommended in Section 18. That relieves the building official from undue pressure and was the main reason for creating a board of review. If you adopt this provision, you should decommission the Board of Review because they will have no task to fulfill.

Sections 9 & 12 deal with existing buildings. I have no real experience with any of these codes, so cannot comment on their particulars. Remodels of existing buildings are handled under the newest building code and only the remodel or addition is expected to be brought up to new standards. Section 8 the Existing Building Code helps those involved in restoration and repurpose of existing buildings and is appropriate for a county that prides itself on its history.

The adoption of sections 9 and 12 is much more dicey. Bringing the police powers of code adoption to bear on existing homes, buildings and the citizenry in the interest of safety seems a little far fetched when looking at the process the city of Salida is going through to correct a large building in its downtown that has been historically “work force” housing. The occupants of the building were displaced by Salida Building officials when sewage began to run out of the basement of the building onto the lawn, that occurred long after the building became unsafe. Those poor people lost their homes not because of code adoption or lack thereof, but because unusual moisture over the course of the summer raised the water table enough the basement floor could no longer accept the raw sewage that had run for years.
The Salida building officials acting in the interests of public safety left the occupants homeless. The muddled ownership of the building was cleared up as a result, and the unsafe conditions remain. The public relations nightmare that would have resulted had the building been cleared by eviction was avoided by alert city action and the Owners are now free to raise the building and convert an eyesore into condo’s for the well to do.

If the Chaffee County Commissioners are going to adopt a new set of rules and regulations under the guise of safety then you need to make the provisions for enforcement clear and uniform and not the result of a need to gentrify this community. The City of Salida failed to do that and the results of their action should give you pause as you move forward.
Sections 9 & 12 are not integral to the rest of the codes you are planning to adopt and should not be carelessly added to the thousands of pages of code you are attempting to revise. Property Maintenance and Abatement of Dangerous Buildings code sound high minded, but in a community where displacement of the working class has become an important part of the economic engine they are codes that need to remain on the shelf. Harassment in all forms is falling from grace and Chaffee County Commissioners should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Thank you for your consideration,

Kirby Perschbacher

Kirby Perschbacher is a timberman, from a long line of timbermen.