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By Karl Ross email@example.com
After fierce lobbying by the building industry, Miami-Dade officials revising
the county's building code have penned in a provision in a draft ordinance that
would allow developers to certify their own plans and inspect newly built homes.
The previous draft of the ordinance, the linchpin of Mayor Alex Penelas' controversial
plans to streamline the construction process, limited the use of private plan examiners
and inspectors to commercial and industrial projects.
That earlier draft was roundly criticized at a Feb. 14 meeting between industry
leaders and county staffers for failing to include residential projects. The revised
ordinance, released this week, would allow private certification and inspection
of residential jobs 180 days after the new rules go into effect.
That means developers could pull permits and certificates of occupancy on homes
in new subdivisions without calling in county inspectors for review.
Pedro Hern ndez, senior assistant to the county manager, acknowledged that
industry outcry influenced the revisions in the draft ordinance.
``Definitely it is a factor,'' Hern ndez said. ``But it is something we
were considering before, rather than do it in an amendment to the ordinance and
phase it in at a later date. I prefer this way.''
And so do industry leaders, who voted to reject the initial draft ordinance at
the Feb. 14 meeting of the Development Process Advisory Committee, or DPAC, a construction
industry forum that reports to the mayor's office. Critics of the mayor's proposal
argue that the industry cannot be trusted to police itself.
Industry watchdogs such as Ed Ashley, an expert witness and permit consultant,
said the mayor's proposal mirrors temporary measures relaxing construction oversight
to speed recovery after Hurricane Andrew.
``In general, it was a fiasco,'' Ashley said. ``It was not done to code, and
people are paying for it today. They're talking about going back to the same system
after Hurricane Andrew that didn't work.''
Ashley said more than 180,000 permits pulled after Andrew remain open because
construction was never brought into compliance under private oversight.
Officials caution that this latest draft ordinance -- which must be approved
by the County Commission and endorsed by the mayor -- is ``a work in progress.''
They say there's considerable tweaking to do before the ordinance is formally presented
to industry leaders at the mayor's Building Together Summit, slated for March 14.
That could include putting county building inspectors back into the process -- at
least during the periodic inspections carried out during residential construction.
``My thinking is that the person's refuge, which is the home, should have a high
degree of inspection,'' Hern ndez said.
Hern ndez said Charlie Mart¡nez, president of the Latin Builders Association,
told him that he favored the continued involvement of county inspectors. Mart¡nez
could not be reached for comment. Other changes in the second draft ordinance, prepared
by Assistant County Attorney Hugo Ben¡tez, are likely to prove less controversial.
The latest draft makes it clear that private architects and engineers hired by
builders are responsible for only certifying a project's compliance with construction
codes. The previous draft called on them to certify compliance with other parts
of the code -- including environmental, fire safety and zoning provisions. The revision
also tightens the enforcement powers of building officials, imposing a ``three strikes
rule'' allowing officials to disqualify a private inspector or plans examiner after
three violations of the new provisions.