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Mecklenburg County to use online version of 2012 residential building code after all

This time it is for real.

Well, unless Mecklenburg County code enforcement officials change their minds again.

After days of flip-flopping over the issue, the county’s code enforcement officials say they will use an online version of the 2012 North Carolina residential building code for permit applications while they wait to receive the codes in book form. The announcement means permit reviews will not be delayed as the county waits for the books to arrive.

The decision comes after the state’s insurance department gave the all-clear to use the online version. The decision also comes after code enforcement officials changed their minds multiple times this week on whether to stop reviewing permits past today, the deadline for governmental groups that issue residential building permits in North Carolina to begin making sure the projects comply with the state’s 2012 building code. After today, projects seeking permit approval will no longer be measured against the older code, which dates to 2009.

On Monday, building industry officials were being told by the county’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency that the county would not be able to review residential building permits after today because it had not received the 2012 books. Then, the very next day, Tim Taylor, code enforcement manager for Mecklenburg County, said that, thanks to the International Code Council posting the codes online, permit reviews would not be put in limbo.

Later Tuesday, Jeff Griffin, code enforcement manager from the county, emailed industry officials to say that the county’s attorney had advised against relying on the online version of the code because it was in draft form.

Then, on Wednesday, the state insurance department announced that the online draft version of the 2012 code won’t be substantively altered, indicating that it is good to use.

Across the state, governmental groups that issue residential building permits have been living under a cloud of uncertainty as they wait for the ICC to print the books. Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized that the 2012 code would be used. But code enforcement departments, like Mecklenburg County’s, have lamented not having the code books before today’s deadline for the code to be implemented.

The North Carolina Home Builders Association, though, has said this week that governmental groups in North Carolina have no business withholding permits now that the ICC has published the code online.

“Although the code is not yet available in traditional book format … the code is now electronically available to all local inspections departments and there is no basis in law to withhold permits or impose illegal moratoria on building,” the homebuilders group said in a press release Tuesday. “‘Draft’ refers only to its status of not yet being published in printed form. There will be no substantive changes between this online version and the ultimate printed version.”

Even though the state’s insurance department is OK with the online version of the 2012 code, Griffin, in an email to industry officials, said projects awarded permits under the online draft version of the codes might need to be altered when the code books come out.

“The concern will be that we will issue permits on the draft copy but if in three weeks when the final version comes out and if there are changes, we will have to enforce those changes on permits already issued on construction that is not inspected yet,” Griffin wrote. “We will not go back and make corrections, but we will … require those changes if (changes in printing) occur.”

Scott Baughman can be reached at scott.baughman@mecktimes.com.

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