The City Council has put a new building code provision into place that the ordinance sponsor said would expedite the process of getting a building ready for occupancy.
Fast Track Services was initiated by Ward 4 Councilman George Gill, the council’s newest member and a member of the building community. The proposal — approved by the council Tuesday without discussion of any of the provisions — addresses complaints that builders have leveled against city hall for years: it takes far too long to get through the processes and receive the final certificate of occupancy they must hold before their buildings are designated complete and ready to be used.
In his agenda explanation, Gill said that process can be lengthy and complicated. He said it’s also frustrating for property owners eager to start using their structures, noting that in some cases “delays in obtaining a CO (certificate of occupancy) can lead to lost revenue or missed opportunities.” Gill’s solution was Fast Track Services, a format that specifies timelines for inspections and certificates, while holding builders accountable for achieving certain things.
“While fast track services may come with additional fees or other requirements, they can be a valuable investment for property owners who need to get their buildings operational as quickly as possible,” Gill said in his commentary.
In simplest terms, the process requires all final inspections to be completed within 48 hours and a certificate of occupancy to be issued within 24 hours. The new ordinance goes into effect in 30 days.
Council action on the new ordinance wasn’t unanimous, because two sided with a recommendation from city administrators that action be delayed until Interim City Attorney Tim Wilson had a chance to review the document. Wilson said he had only reviewed discussion of the ordinance held by members of a study committee; he had not reviewed the document itself and wanted a chance to do so. Interim City Manager John Ratliff said while the ordinance addresses some inefficiencies in the review process, it wasn’t ready for council yet.
Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren said he wanted the ordinance to go to the council’s Processes Oversight Committee so members could look at some items (addressing some definitions, such as non-conforming structures, for example), but Ward 2 Councilman Kelly Harris made a substitute motion to approve the ordinance as is. That motion passed on a 5-2 vote (Warren and Ward 7 Councilwoman Onreka Johnson, who had seconded Warren’s original motion, voted no). Officials continued to disagree about whether the document had been through legal review.
“It’s been through legal,” Gill said.
Wilson said he had not reviewed the ordinance itself; council members said another member of the legal staff had read the ordinance.