Jonesborough building codes lapse; town preparing to adopt updated codes

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 5, 2013 at 10:19 PM

The town of Jonesborough’s residential building codes have lapsed approximately 10 months beyond the maximum 7-year code revision interval allowed by Tennessee code enforcement regulations.

Town Administrator Bob Browning said Monday an ordinance to adopt the 2006 International Residential Code currently in use in Washington County and Johnson City is being drafted and will be presented to the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen next week.

The 2012 IRC was released last spring and put the 2003 IRC enforced in Jonesborough outside the state’s requirement for local residential codes to be within seven years of the most recent IRC publication.

“We need to bring it up to date,” Browning said.

Gary Farley, director of residential codes enforcement for the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s office, said his office received an email from Washington County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford on Jan. 22 that indicated Jonesborough was using the 2003 IRC. Farley said his office contacted Jonesborough on the same date and learned the town plans to adopt the 2006 IRC.

Farley said the state audits local code enforcement jurisdictions every three years and would have discovered the lapse in Jonesborough’s residential code in an audit of all three jurisdictions in Washington County to be conducted next year. If the lapse had been discovered in an audit, Farley said his office would have notified Jonesborough and required the town to submit a plan of correction.

“If their plan was to go through with their ordinance, I would approve that plan. There is no penalty,” Farley said.

The IRC is revised by the International Codes Council every three years and Jonesborough, Johnson City and Washington County all will be required to update their 2006 IRC when the next publication is released in 2015.

Farley said, “It’s their decision what year they have. Some jurisdictions have 2006, some have 2009, some have 2012. It’s a personal preference, as long as they’re within seven years of the most recent publication.”

While Jonesborough is expected to adopt the 2006 IRC next week, Browning said, “There is not a lot of difference in the codes.”

“The same codes cover most everything. You do want to stay in compliance and we are updating it. But it’s not like there is a tremendous amount of difference. There may have been a time period because of compliance, but there was a code in effect and enforced,” Browning said.

Rutherford said developers are familiar with the differences in revised editions of the IRC and that it was a developer upset with differences in how codes are enforced in the county and in Jonesborough that prompted him to contact the state. “He told me Jonesborough was using (the) 2003 (IRC). He seemed pretty knowledgeable and he really let me have it. ... To make him happy, I contacted the state and asked,” Rutherford said. “I didn’t mean to blow the whistle on Jonesborough.”

Rutherford said the developer who questioned him does not want to be identified “for fear of reprisal.” But, as the county’s zoning administrator, he believes local building code jurisdictions should be consistent with each other.

He said developers went so far as to heckle the 2009 IRC at public hearings conducted in advance of Washington County’s implementation of a county code enforcement program in 2011. The county ultimately adopted the 2006 IRC that is also used in Johnson City. If Johnson City adopts the 2012 IRC when the 2006 code lapses outside the state’s seven-year revision requirement in 2015, Rutherford said the county will likely follow suit.

The 2012 IRC addresses provisions of the 2009 code that developers consider “obtrusive,” Rutherford said.

The county’s building code enforcement officer, Scott Chapman, said he was certified on the 2009 IRC and there is “very, very little difference” between the 2009 and 2006 codes.

Rutherford said a determination of what impact the lapse in Jonesborough’s IRC may have had could not be made without a detailed study, but building codes are updated to provide minimum requirements for the public’s safety, health and general welfare.

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