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Uniform Commercial Building Code Signed Into State Statute

A Wisconsin State Assembly committee voted 10-3 on March 6 to support a bill that would adopt a uniform commercial building code for Wisconsin.

The legislation, put forward by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin and similar groups, would take away local governments’ ability to set commercial-building standards that are stricter than the state’s. The one exception to the uniform code would be for fire-safety ordinances that cities, villages and towns adopted before May 1, 2013.

That exemption was put into the bill to allay concerns expressed by firefighters organizations, which contended that local officials are in the best position to know what for fire rules are most suited to protecting their constituents.

In another step meant to allay concerns about losses of local control, the bill would let so-called second-class cities, those with populations between 39,000 and 150,000, adopt variances to the uniform code without state approval. Variances let developers design buildings to a standard that meets the intent of the code without strictly conforming. Wisconsin law now allows such variances to be passed only by first-class cities, or those with a population of more than 150,000. The committee voted 12-0 to support the amendment to include the language of the exception.

Aseembly Bill 782 placed the responsibility of making revisions to the commercial code in the hands of a building code council made up of building inspectors, contractors, architects and those belonging to similar trades and professions. The council members would be appointed by the governor and would serve three-year terms.

Senate Bill 617 was the same bill that followed a similar track. The bills needed Assembly and Senate floor approval to move to the governor’s desk for his signature. The legislative session ended late March with the bill passing both legislative bodies.

The bill was signed into state statute April 16, 2014, by the governor.

– Dan Gengler, regional manager, Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association

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