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New state building code is put on hold

Builders say many local officials are not ready to implement the code. Legislation delays the effective date 60 days.

By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 18, 2001

TALLAHASSEE -- The state's new building code has been delayed until March.

Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday signed legislation granting a 60-day extension for the code, which had been set to go into effect on Jan 1.

Florida home builders, who feared Bush planned to veto the delay, said the extension will help local building departments get new regulations in place well ahead of time.

"It's a good thing the governor signed it," said Richard Gentry, lobbyist for the Florida Home Builders Association.

Home builders said many of the state's local governments had yet to put the new regulations in place and respond to questions about the new regulations. Without the extension, home builders predicted serious construction delays.

Pinellas County's new regulations have been in place since September, but many other counties are still considering ordinances that establish the new rules.

Regardless of when it goes into effect, builders say the new code -- which requires construction to withstand hurricane winds in coastal counties -- will increase the cost of construction throughout Florida. The new statewide code was approved by legislators in 1998 to increase construction standards in coastal counties in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Building officials around the state say widespread misunderstandings about the new building code persist in many areas. Each of the state's coastal counties is required to establish a wind speed line that increases requirements for buildings constructed in areas that can expect to get winds of 120 mph during a hurricane.

Some counties, such as Miami-Dade and Broward, have included all of the land in the county in the 120 mph zone.

In Pinellas County, all construction on land west of the Intracoastal Waterway will have to be build to withstand winds of up to 130 mph. Construction east of the waterway will have to withstand winds of 123 mph.

Pinellas County structural engineer O.E. Olsen says the new code requires that some building materials be certified in advance, a step that will take two or three months to complete. Olsen, in a letter to the St. Petersburg Times on Monday said the new building code also contains several hundred errors that need to be corrected.

Bush signed the building code without comment along with about a dozen other bills approved in a special session called primarily to deal with budget shortfalls.

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