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Gazette Premium Content Mayor plans to propose stricter fire, building codes

DANIEL CHACÓN Updated: August 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

The Bach administration plans to propose stricter fire and building codes for new construction and rebuilds in Mountain Shadows following the Waldo Canyon fire.

But whether it can apply more aggressive requirements to existing homes in hillside areas remains a topic of discussion that will require public feedback, Chief of Staff Laura Neumann said during a town hall meeting Wednesday.

“The open item is whether the existing structures can be grandfathered in or we’re going to have some stricter requirements for those whose homes already exist,” she said.

“There should be no discussion,” Gary Casimir, one of about 60 residents who attended the town hall, told Neumann.

“If the home went down, they want to rebuild, it’s got to be to new standards. No grandfathering,” he said.

The debate that started to unfold at the town hall will play out in front of a larger audience in coming weeks.

A task force has been meeting regularly to discuss possible changes to fire and building codes. Recommendations will be presented to Mayor Steve Bach in the next week and to the City Council on Aug. 14, Neumann said.

The idea of applying stricter standards to existing homes will be a community discussion, she said.

“Whether or not the citizens are willing to accept that remains to be seen,” Neumann said. “I anticipate that will involve a public hearing and people coming forward to City Council and voicing whether they think that’s appropriate.”

Bach said he had mixed feelings about the issue and that the debate centered about private property rights and the overall public interest.

“Clearly, there’s a case to be made for the public interest,” he said.

“If a fire starts in your place and you’ve got all sorts of fuel that makes it go elsewhere, then that’s a concern. I think it’s just a debate we’re going to have to have. I want to hear what the public has to say about it and clearly City Council,” he said.

Bach said he wasn’t sure whether stricter rules even could be applied to existing homes.

“I think we need an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office,” he said.

Bach said he would be more supportive of applying stricter standards to existing homes if grant funding or other financial help was available to homeowners.

“If we could figure out how to get the money to help at least partially pay for some improvements, then maybe I’d feel better about it,” he said.

Rebuilding after the fire, the most destructive in state history, was one of various issues discussed during the town hall. Other topics included the city’s $500 million stormwater needs, the discontinuation of the FrontRange Express commuter bus service this month, and the mayor’s position on the Martin Drake Power Plant downtown.

“I’m not against anything,” Bach said when asked about the coal-fired power plant.

“I believe in asking questions,” he said

Contact Daniel Chacón: 476-1623

Twitter @danieljchacon

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