The Oro Valley Town Council voted 7-0 to deny the implementation of a Town-recommended Building Safety Board of Appeals on Oct. 17.
Planning Division Manager David Williams presented the item to the council.
“What this board does is provide checks and balances for your building official,” he said. “If somebody is aggrieved by his decision, this is a technically-based board made up of plumbing, electrical, and mechanical engineers so they can weigh in on a building official’s decision in an intelligent fashion to either support it or overturn it.”
The Building Safety Board of Appeals, which is included as an item in the Town’s current building code, has not had a board over the last 10 years without incident, prompting Vice Mayor Lou Waters and other members of council to question why it would be suddenly necessary.
In response, Williams said the Town has “been flying without a safety net,” for the last 10 years, but the feeling of staff is that “the time to be flying without a net is over.”
Councilman Joe Hornat weighed in on the matter, arguing the implementation of a Board doesn’t make sense, and touched on staff’s claim there would be no fiscal impact to initiate the board.
“We’ve been doing this successfully with the staff we have for 10 years, and to say there is no fiscal impact here, that’s not true,” he said. “We’ve got the training, the open meeting law training, the meetings, the staff time that goes into that. We’re looking for six volunteers now for our boards and commissions, and we’re having a hard time filling them. We’re looking for people (for the Board of Appeals) who are very specific. We’ve got something already that is working today, and I just don’t see the necessity for this. If it’s working, let’s leave it alone.”
Councilman Bill Garner asked Williams what the consequences would be if an appeal arose and there was no sitting board.
“The most unfortunate thing is it brings a project to a halt,” said Williams. “They have to time out until this is resolved. If we don’t have a seated board, we then need to advertise, recruit the board members, call a meeting, provide adequate public notice, have the hearing decision and move on. It could take one or several months to do that, so it causes a delay to our building community or to someone trying to complete a project.”
In public hearing, Oro Valley resident Bill Adler argued the best solution would be to hire a hearing officer with technical expertise, or to simply have council act as the board.
“There are simpler ways to handle this,” he said.
Mayor Satish Hiremath asked staff whether they anticipated any future appeals.
“This was really a cleanup item,” said Town Manager Greg Caton. ‘It’s already in the code, and we thought it was our due diligence to bring this forward. Admittedly, it has not been needed, and we’re very fortunate for that. We recommend sitting the board because it is international building code and consistent throughout the region, but again, there are alternatives.”
Council voted 7-0 to deny the particular motion while looking for alternative ways to form an appeal process.
In other business, the council voted 7-0 to maintain a seven-member Conceptual Design and Review Board, as opposed to the typical nine members, as two members recently resigned.