For more than three months, Lula’s City Council has continued to debate the details of proposed amendments to the city’s building code ordinance. Circumstances surrounding code enforcement in Lula have remained a source of contention after a 45-page report released in September accused elected officials of misconduct.
Amendments to the city’s building codes, if approved, would impose higher (up to $500) fines on residents for repeated or unresolved code violations and include the adoption of international building codes to establish minimum standards on building systems, as well as various changes to permit requirements on certain structures.
At a regular meeting Monday, March 20, Councilman Tony Cornett, a vocal critic of the proposal in its current form, motioned to table the item until further discussion can take place. After the meeting, Cornett cited aspects of the proposed ordinance involving detached decks as one of his concerns.
“The international building code makes recommendations of certain things that don’t need a permit, internationally, and yet our city council, somehow, some way, decided to start modifying at least three of those,” Cornett said. “I just wonder what the motive was – was it revenue-generating or was it public safety? A detached deck … a separate patio, party deck … that’s not part of your house.”
“They want to require a permit for that, and I just think that’s inappropriate,” he said.
Cornett went on to say he feels he’s been left out of talks over the ordinance that have taken place in committee meetings since January.
“I never got a copy of anything that was talked about in the committee, so whether they just ignored my concerns and concerns that were voiced by the citizens – because there were several – I’m not sure,” Cornett said. “I don’t know what happened or if the ball was dropped … I don’t know if they’re distracted or not.”
After reviewing specifics of the proposal in the coming weeks, Cornett said he hopes council can come to a consensus before Lula’s next regular meeting in April.
“Hopefully, based on a new review of what’s going to be provided to me, I’ll make sure to have this in the forefront of my mind to make sure that I get resolution on all those concerns,” he said. “So I can represent that to citizens and still vote confidently.”
The planning and zoning committee, charged with oversight of amending the ordinance, comprises Council members Gene Bramlett, Garnett Smith and and Mayor Joe Thomas.
Councilman Chip Horst said he’s “in the same camp” as Cornett, stating, “There are some things we need to look at (in the proposal) … that we don’t agree with.”
Horst, who in late-November conveyed the belief that $500 fines for building code violations were “too steep” for residents, said his position on that has shifted after he received “more information” since taking office. Specifically, he noted that the amount residents pay for code violations often vary.
“The fine could be up to $500 (or lower),” he said. “It depends on how blatant the disregard for the ordinance is.”
The item is expected to go before council for a fourth time at 7 p.m. Monday, April 17, at Lula City Hall.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Denise Shockley was a member of the planning and zoning committee.