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franklin county times

Developer: Rigid codes hamper growth

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
June 24, 2001
Meridian's growth is hampered by outdated building codes that do not account for modern construction technology and a "dictatorial" Community Development Department, according to a veteran local developer.
In response, Don Farrar, Meridian's Community Development Director, said his department is fair and diligent in adhering to the city's codes, although even he admits some portions of the codes, adopted in 1966, may be outdated.
Flexibility needed
Bounds said the department needs to be more flexible in allowing deviation from the city codes and learn to examine different construction methods that could lead to the same end.
According to Bounds, adding the words "or equal to" to the building code could solve the dilemma by giving developers leeway in deciding the most efficient using modern, cost effective construction methods.
Farrar said he's heard that argument before, but legally the city couldn't do it for fear it would indemnify contractors for their work.
Farrar admits the city's codes are old, and new and better ways to solve some problems likely do exist. He's not opposed to purging the city of unneeded and outdated codes; in fact, he said he welcomes it.
Same standards
Although Farrar conceded some regulations may be outdated, he said Meridian uses the Southeast Standards Building Codes, the same standard still used in other comparable cities around the state.
Farrar said his department received accolades from local businesses and large contractors that helped build Bonita Lakes Mall.
Farrar also disputes developers' tendency to give his department a black eye over what developers see as its uncooperative and cold-hearted approach. In the near future, he said, his department will begin addressing a Grow Meridian Team's recommendation of examining existing codes to possibly expunge the unnecessary ones.
Although he's not sure just yet how the process will work in examining city building codes, Farrar said the community needs to play a role in determining how strict or relaxed codes should be.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.