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County Council adopts updated building codes amid some residential concern

The St. Charles County Council has adopted updated international building codes governing residential and commercial construction.

After months of discussion, changes and tabled action, the council voted 6-1 at its June 26 meeting to adopt revised 2015 codes. The vote came despite continued calls by a group of residents asking the county to abandon the adoption of the international codes.

The county is currently using the 2009 international codes and typically amends them about every six years.

Councilmember Joe Cronin [District 1] said, before the vote on the revised bill, that it was a better bill than the current 2009 codes and eliminated threats of incarceration and reduced penalties for lack of compliance. “We’ve done the best we can,” Cronin said. “I think we beat this horse to death.”

County staff, along with Cronin and councilmembers Michael Klinghammer [District 6] and Joe Brazil [District 1], worked on revising the codes with builders, Realtors® and the Homebuilders Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri to safeguard construction and eliminate high costs on new homes. The result is codes that are more accommodating than those in many other cities in St. Charles County that have already adopted the 2015 update, Cronin said. He also noted that the codes are a work in progress and can be revised.

But about a dozen residents, who spoke against adoption of the codes during the public comment portion of the meeting, expressed concerns about penalties as high as $1,000 a day for violations, and whether building inspectors could come on their property – a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, they said.  Each opponent’s comments drew applause.

“I think it’s criminal to charge someone with a crime for having peeling paint,” said resident Brenda Webb.  Violations should be handled first by warning letters. “We need to work with people not beat them over the head,” she said.

Other residents suggested that adopting international building codes was a move away from national sovereignty and toward  “world government,” mentioning “Agenda 21” a non-binding United Nations voluntary action plan for sustainable development adopted in 1992.

“Are we part of the United States of America or not? Is St. Charles County a part of the United States of America or not?” asked Cindy Evans, a resident from O’Fallon. “Do we believe we are a free and sovereign people or not? Or are we a big piece of the global-controlled community envisioned by the United Nations?”

She said she hasn’t read all the regulations but understands “the law of unintended consequences.”

“This feels like the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent to me,” she said. “If this is approved, what comes next? Where and when does it stop?” She said the council should, on principal, say no to the 2015 updates and possibly rescind the 2009 code approval.

Klinghammer, however, said the county has tried very hard to accommodate changes suggested by residents and correct mistakes in the proposed updated codes and has made informed decisions. At the end of the day, this may not be as big a concern as some residents think, he said. Some of the concerns mentioned don’t really have anything to do with building codes but with the county’s property maintenance code, he said.

“We agree with you, we don’t want outside influences having control and demanding of things we do in our county,” Klinghammer said.  He added that the county staff suggested 60 changes in codes to meet the needs of the county before they came to the council.

Councilmember Dave Hammond [District 4], a former county building commissioner, said the updated codes have nothing to do with “Agenda 21.” He added that there are limits in regard to building inspectors coming onto private property. Without a judge’s order or owner’s permission, they are trespassing, he said; “and no one is taking away any rights.”

But Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2] remained skeptical saying the 8,000-page code revisions are too much to read and absorb. “We don’t need this, it hasn’t been proven we need this, why are we doing this?” Brazil asked. He cast the lone no vote.

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