By Mary Hladky
Boca Raton is the first city in Palm Beach County to enact an ordinance requiring buildings to be inspected to determine if they are safe.
Moving rapidly after the horrific June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, City Council members unanimously approved the new law on Aug. 24 that took effect immediately.
“I think this is an important step to enhance safety and enhance confidence in Boca Raton,” said Mayor Scott Singer.
The ordinance establishes recertification standards like those that exist in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. But Boca Raton’s is more stringent, requiring inspections of buildings 30 years old rather than 40, with additional inspections taking place every 10 years thereafter.
The City Council action comes as other Palm Beach County cities, the county commission and the Palm Beach County League of Cities also are working to establish rules.
Singer did not want to wait until a consensus was reached before acting, but is willing to revise Boca Raton’s ordinance in the future so that it does not conflict with what will be required elsewhere in the county or state.
Though the final ordinance largely mirrors a draft released in July, it provides more detailed requirements for building inspections and engineering reports and requires building owners to promptly tell city officials how they plan to make any needed repairs.
It also explicitly states that single-family homes and duplexes are exempt from recertification rules.
The ordinance applies to buildings that are taller than three stories, or 50 feet.
Development Services Director Brandon Schaad said the ordinance will create an initial backlog of 242 buildings needing inspection and it will take four years complete that work.
Chief Building Official Michael DiNorscio will prioritize buildings based on age, location, construction materials and other factors. Waterfront condos will be high on the priority list.
DiNorscio will send a “notice of required inspection” to the owner of buildings requiring recertification at least one year before the recertification deadline.
The mandatory inspections must be conducted by both a structural and an electrical engineer, who will identify any deficiencies.
If repairs are needed, the building owner must submit a repair plan to the city within 30 days. The plan will include when repairs will be completed, subject to approval by the city.
Building owners are responsible for hiring the engineers to inspect and prepare reports.
Owners will have three chances to satisfy city officials that they are taking appropriate action. If issues are unresolved, the matter will be referred to the Permitting and Construction Review Board, which can turn the matter over to a special magistrate to enforce the requirements.
The city will hire an engineer, code enforcement officer and an administrative staffer to implement the ordinance at an annual cost of about $250,000.