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City Delays New Construction Rules

The City Council postponed Tuesday considering a plan that would require builders provide a construction staging plan on their projects, giving contractors and architects more time to provide feedback.

The proposed changes to the city’s construction permit process was recommended by the city’s Parking Traffic and Circulation Committee in an effort to address a growing barrage of complaints from residents about streets clogged by contractor’s trucks.

The recommended changes include requiring builders to stipulate where and when construction related vehicles could park and submitting a staging plan in constrained sites along with their construction plan. In addition, the proposal called for notifying neighbors within 300 feet of a project on a constrained site of the imminent construction and a procedure for public feedback.

“This has arisen from years and years of acrimony between contractors and neighbors,” said PTC chair Neil Katz. “Our objective was to alleviate that” and address the issues up front by establishing rules enforceable by the building, police and fire departments, he said, adding that resident feedback has been unanimous in favor of the new procedures. “I see it as win, win, win,” he insisted.

Contractors and architects saw it differently.

Local architect Morris Skenderian questioned the noticing rationale, saying construction activities generally only disrupt neighbors on the same street as the project. He suggested only notifying those neighbors, within 300 feet on either side of the project.

Local developer Ken Fischbeck said that before adopting a notification procedure that could prove costly to homeowners and contractors, city planners should get more feedback from the construction community.

“The way I read it…it’s already expensive enough to build in this town,” said longtime resident and contractor Jerry Meyers. He also advocated for further input. “I’m okay with not blocking my neighbors’ driveways, but I just think there are other ways to do it,” he said.

Building contractor Al Oligino endorsed the idea of a workshop to solicit the comments of builders and designers. “I just ask that whatever you do, don’t take an already burdensome system and add another layer that makes it even more unpredictable,” he begged.

Staff outlined criteria to identify constrained sites, such as projects built on steep slopes, having tight access and/or limited street frontage. They listed the essential elements of a typical staging plan and set out a procedure for reviewing the staging plan and noticing neighbors.

The key to avoiding the ire of neighbors is identifying confined job sites early and alerting them when plans are submitted, said Steve May, the city’s public works director.

Dennis Bogle, the city’s building official, said the recommended changes follow successful policies in place for development in the Diamond Crestview area that have smoothed construction traffic congestion on narrow, steep streets.

Responding to Council member Steve Dicterow’s query about the costs of complying with the new requirements, City Manager John Pietig said they could range from under $1,000 to several thousand dollars.

Contractors who pulled permits within the last year as well as 85 architects and designers who regularly do business in the city were notified about the proposed changes on Tuesday’s agenda, Pietig said.

As staging plans already are required on difficult projects, the biggest difference with the new rules is the notification requirement, said John Mongtomery, the community development director. The rules would require builders establish communication with neighbors and a path for them to raise concerns, he said.

Dicterow pushed for more input from builders and contractors before proceeding, and Council member Kelly Boyd agreed, expressing concern over the 300-foot noticing.

“There are good contractors and architects, but there are abusers,” said Mayor Elizabeth Pearson. To curb abusers, she tasked the contractors and architects present to “think about what those rules should be.”

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