Developers race to beat deadline for new state building code
By Claudio Mendonça
Developers and contractors raced to get building permits to beat an Oct. 1 deadline that would have forced them to meet a new state building code. More than 2,668 residential and commercial permits were issued in Miami-Dade's unincorporated areas in September, far exceeding the 1,045 in September 2004.
"There were a lot of developers and contractors trying to get their plans prior to the deadline," said Richard Horton, president of Green Construction Corp. "Had they passed Oct. 1, developers would have to start a new process for permit approval."
The code is updated every three years. The original deadline for the 2004 version was July 1, but it was delayed three months to give contractors, designers and code-enforcement personnel more time to prepare for the changes.
The 2004 version, based on the international building code, contains seven volumes divided into building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel and gas, and test protocols for high-velocity hurricane zones. The new version of the code added new volumes for "Existing Building" and "Residential."
Because municipalities issue their own building permits, countywide totals are hard to get. But despite the rush to beat the deadline, experts say the new rules won't hamper construction in the state.
Herminio Gonzalez, director of Miami-Dade County's building-code compliance office, said the rush here wasn't as frantic as in Manatee County, on Florida's west coast. In Bradenton, a new impact fee loomed. But despite the double deadline of state code and local fee increases, only 291 permits for homes were issued there in September, compared with 370 a year ago.
To ensure that the new code is being followed properly, Mr. Gonzalez said, the county has been providing training for building officials in all of the county's 35 cities. Additionally, he said, Miami Dade College is setting up classes instructed by certified building officials.
The county's construction rush isn't governed just by the new building code. Homestead, one of Florida's fastest-growing areas with 3,000 homes built in the past two years, in the first nine months of 2005 issued 1,866 certificates of occupancy, up from 950 during all of 2003 and 1,976 in all of 2004, according to Tom Lampert, a city building official.
In Coral Gables, said Tony Silio, a city compliance officer, what is causing a rush among contractors and developers is not the new state code but a zoning rewrite under which city officials want to diminish the height and density of buildings in buffer zones.
But the last-minute rush in the Gables was minimal: In September 2004, the city processed 445 commercial and residential permits, compared with 451 in September 2005.
"We have a massive amount of high rises in the northeastern quadrant of Coral Gables," Mr. Silio said. "The city is trying to keep the density down to the point of commissioners discussing the possibility of imposing a building moratorium in the quadrant."