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Bellingham amends building code, permit extension process.

The Bellingham City Council unanimously passed a series of new building codes at the Monday, May 24, meeting. The new codes will amend Bellingham's previous building codes and adopt state and international standards.

The new codes and standards include the 2009 Washington State Building Code, the International Property Maintenance Code and the Electrical Code. Additionally, the 2009 versions of the International Building Code, International Residence Code, International Mechanical Code, international Fuel Gas Code, International Existing Building Code, National Fuel Gas Code, Liquified Petroleum Gas Code and others will all be included in the amended Bellingham law.

According to city of Bellingham (COB) documents, these new codes will change the permit process. Permit applications now have a limited ability to be extended. Issued permits will have a time limit of 24 months, with residential permits having the ability to be extended one time only for six months. However, larger projects that demonstrate a need to go longer than 24 months can be extended, if they provide a construction schedule demonstrating the need for a longer time period.

Use of consultants will be allowed, but at the expense of the applicant and will typically be limited to third-party plan review. Testing laboratories and special inspection agencies will be suspended from working on city projects if they do not submit timely reports to the city.

Jim Tinner, building official with COB, said the permit expiration date was shortened to two years because residential builders could previously extend their permits by showing progress every 180 days on their project, even if the progress was minimal.

Permits may be renewed for one year by paying a 50 percent permit fee if no changes to the original plan have been made. Tinner said the two-year limit with a possible third-year extension allows for a project to be completed in one code cycle. He said approximately every three years, the state of Washington updates its building codes and then has every city locally adopt and implement those codes.

Lance Clare executive of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, said the new guidelines for permits he has seen should help streamline the permit process with clear expectations that will provide uniformity.

"I think it will help both city government as well as the builders and owners," Clark said.

Tinner said the new codes will also allow for the inspection of residential weatherization measures. He said many condominium builders have been driven out of the field because of problems with multifamily units leaking and experiencing water damage. These builders have been sued because they did not properly weatherize the homes. The amended Bellingham code will allow for condominium builders to come back into the market with a proper weatherization inspection program in place.

"We want to make sure the builders are aware of the oversight," Tinner said.

Builders wanting more in-depth instruction on how the codes will affect them can take an update class, which Tinner said is being offered around the state by the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Washington Association of Building Officials.

Tristan Hiegler
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Title Annotation:Employment: The lagging economic indicator
Author:Hiegler, Tristan
Publication:Bellingham Business Journal
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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