The city staff is fighting a rear guard action against the stakeholders concerning the proposed “Good Repair” ordinance that would place a detailed set of regulations on every nonresidential building in Greensboro.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled to be on the agenda for the Tuesday, July 16 meeting. Noting that, at the end of the meeting between stakeholders and city staff on Monday, July 1, Marlene Sanford, president of the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC) asked for another meeting to be scheduled.
Assistant City Manager Chris Wilson suggested they communicate by email, despite the fact that City Manager David Parrish had told the City Council that staff would meet with the stakeholders every week before the next City Council meeting. Not a single member of the city staff attended the stakeholder meeting last week and currently no future meeting is scheduled.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the meeting held at city hall in the Plaza Level Conference Room was an exchange between Deputy City Attorney Terri Jones and Mayor Nancy Vaughan. Several people had questioned the need for buildings to be brought into compliance with the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). Jones explained that was something the City Council had specifically requested.
Vaughan said, “Quite frankly, there hasn’t been a Council discussion about that.”
She added, “I’m not aware that there was a direction from the Council that every commercial building should be ready for a tenant at the drop of a hat.”
Jones replied, “I’ve never had direction from the entire City Council.”
Vaughan said, “The idea is that every building is going to be in good repair, not that every building is going to be ready to be leased the next day.”
Sanford said that the standards for occupied and vacant buildings should be different. One example she gave was that a vacant building should not be required to have working hot water.
Jerry McCraw of Bessemer Improvement Co. noted that the owner of a vacant commercial building doesn’t know what the new tenant will need and depending on the use, the requirements of the new tenant could be entirely different from the old.
Vaughan said there was no reason to put new carpet in a vacant building, but her understanding was that the IPMC could require that.
One of the points made by several stakeholders was that nonresidential buildings were far more diverse than residential buildings. But according to the proposed good repair ordinance all nonresidential buildings will be held to the same standard.
Sanford also objected to the large portions of the IPMC that apply to residential but not to nonresidential buildings and the issues that could arise from requiring property owners to comply with the IPMC for kitchens when to use a commercial kitchen the property owner would have to have approval of the Guilford County Health Department and the two codes were not the same.
Jones said the city would not enforce the residential parts of the IPMC and would work with the health department, but the question that was never answered is, if the city is not planning on enforcing the IPMC why is the city staff insisting that the IPMC be included in the proposed ordinance.
One speaker brought up a possible issue that went completely over the heads of the city staff. He said, “If I was looking to develop a spot and it’s in a prime location, I could use this ordinance against the guy to get that spot.”
Jones replied that having the city condemn and take possession of the building could take years.
But the point is that this ordinance is going to be complaint driven. So someone interested in an old building could call in a complaint to the city and if five minor violations were found then the city would according to the proposed ordinance require the owner to bring the entire building up to the current 35 page IPMC. If the owner didn’t have the money to bring the building up to code and particularly if there was no tenant, then the owner might be much more inclined to sell the building.
And if this proposed ordinance passes, one developer said a whole lot of nonresidential buildings are going to go on the market because the owners don’t want to or can’t afford to bring them up the IPMC.