Olathe & Southwest Joco

Olathe council airs concerns about cost of building code update

Lenexa has already adopted the 2018 international code. Shawnee has also approved the code to go into effect this summer. The Olathe City Council is considering the code.
Lenexa has already adopted the 2018 international code. Shawnee has also approved the code to go into effect this summer. The Olathe City Council is considering the code. File photo

A potential building code update for Olathe prompted worries from City Council members that residents and business owners would be the ones stuck with rising costs as a result.

Tuesday night’s meeting was the council’s first chance to review possible amendments to the approximately 4,000 pages of material that could affect everything from residential lighting to regulations for fire-proofing both residential and commercial buildings.

The codes cover a wide swath, including building, residential, existing buildings, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, electrical, energy conservation, swimming pool, property maintenance and fire codes.

Possible changes include requiring new residences to illuminate house numbers and requiring sprinklers for many storage facilities. Other amendments dealt with requiring storm shelters or basements in new residences and sprinklers in buildings with three or more units.

“This is the biggest tax increase we’re going to do on the city council,” Councilman Larry Campbell said, suggesting that the costs of these code changes will eventually be passed along to residents.

He also asked presenter Mark Wassom, chief building official for Olathe, if he had letters of support for the code amendments from local developers and questioned if the amendments had taken into consideration costs to Olathe residents.

“Some of the things we propose will cost more money,” Wassom said.

Although he did not have the letters of support Campbell mentioned, Wassom said they were getting no pushback from developers.

Councilman John Bacon expressed concerns that the amendments could cost the city in additional staffing, but Wassom said that staffing was more dependent on the volume of inspections, rather than what the codes were.

Several other local cities are considering updates to their building codes. Wassom said that Lenexa has already adopted the 2018 international codes. Shawnee has also approved the codes to go into effect this summer.

“We want our major builders who are building in all of these cities to be able to give us the same plans,” Wassom said. “When they can’t, that adds costs.”

Campbell, along with several other council members, asked for additional time to review the codes before putting it to a vote.

Councilwoman Marge Vogt said that because the city won’t update codes again for six years, it’s important for the current council to take its time reviewing the proposed amendments.

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