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    City hammers out new building rules

    Oldsmar City Council members vote to write an ordinance allowing construction to start at 7 a.m.

    By ED QUIOCO

    © St. Petersburg Times, published August 19, 2000


    OLDSMAR -- Even those in charge of enforcement agree: The city's rules on when construction crews can start their work days are about as realistic as a 35 mph speed limit on Interstate 275.

    Currently, workers are prohibited from hammering away before 8 a.m. But in general, the construction industry begins work at about 7 a.m. so workers can go home before the late-afternoon downpours, said Nick Staszko, Oldsmar Community Development Director.

    "It's kind of like speed limits," Staszko said. "If you put a realistic speed limit, people tend to comply with the speed limit. If you put in something that is really too slow that you can't really comply with very well, people are going to violate it."

    So City Council members have begun to change the rules to match common practice.

    "We are not really able to enforce the ordinance at the 8 a.m. period anyway," Staszko said. "The reality on the ground is that they start at 7 a.m. and to try to enforce them to not start at 7 a.m. . . . is difficult if not impossible. It makes more sense to change it to be consistent with the general industry standard than it is to try and haul someone in front of code enforcement for starting an hour earlier than they are supposed to."

    Council members also decided at their meeting Tuesday to change the rules to enforce construction work better on Saturdays and Sundays. Currently the code only regulates work on the weekdays. That has led to some confusion about what is allowed on the weekends.

    "If you believe that the silence of the code means it is not permitted at all, you couldn't do work on Saturdays and Sundays," Mayor Jeff Sandler said. "If you believe that the silence in the code means it has never been addressed and it is not regulated, then you could work 48 hours straight. It all depends on the argument."

    Oldsmar is not the only community in Tampa Bay to try balancing the schedules of construction workers with the desire of homeowners to sleep in on the weekends. In June, the Tampa City Council set an 8 a.m. start time for loud work on Saturdays, and allowed the operation of pile drivers and jackhammers only after 10 a.m.

    In Oldsmar, city staffers have proposed changing the current ordinance to read that construction work "shall be permitted only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. No construction activities shall be permitted on Sundays."

    After council member Ed Manny objected to allowing workers to begin pounding at 7 a.m. on Saturday, council members changed the proposed amendment to push back the starting time on Saturdays to 8 a.m. Manny said he has received complaints from residents about the sounds of construction waking them up on Saturdays.

    "It doesn't bother me because I'm up (at 7 a.m.), but a lot of people are not," Manny said.

    Council member David Tilki also complained that the proposed ordinance would prohibit home do-it-yourselfers from working on Sundays. After his objection, council members added a second change to allow property owners to work on their homes on Sundays.

    Staszko said city staff proposed the Sunday prohibition because they wanted the city's codes to be consistent with Pinellas County's rules, which prohibit construction work on Sundays.

    After making the two changes to the proposed amendment, council members voted unanimously to authorize City Attorney Tom Trask to prepare a revised ordinance dealing with construction start times.

    Staszko said most of the other municipalities allow construction workers to begin at 7 a.m., and it's important for municipalities to be as consistent as possible so workers won't be faced with different starting times in different cities.

    "If you look at it, 8 a.m. is just too late," Staszko said Wednesday. "In this environment, in the middle of the summer, you want to be able to get out there early because you want to cut out early because it is just flat-out too hot to be out there in the afternoon."

    - Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or at quioco@sptimes.com.

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