City Councilman Terry Nall opened a council discussion about amending building codes Dec. 8 by showing images of Los Angeles fires from that day’s TV news.
Nall said he woke up at 6 a.m. that morning, just like he does every work day, but on Dec. 8 he saw the news showing a giant fire consuming a structure in Los Angeles, California. The structure was a wood-framed apartment building, he said.
As members of the council and Mayor Mike Davis looked at images of the L.A. fire, they noted how “you can see the wood frame.”
Nall used the pictures to support his argument that the city should adopt tougher – and controversial – building codes. City officials have been debating the changes for more than a year.
Proponents have said the changes would make future construction in Dunwoody safer. Opponents have said the changes would chill development and have criticized them as a disguised effort to limit future construction of apartment buildings.
On Dec. 8, the council voted 6-to-1 to adopt the changes, which will require commercial, office, apartment or condominium buildings more than three stories tall to be framed with noncombustible materials such as metal and/or concrete. The city had allowed buildings up to five stories to be built with wooden frames.
Councilman Denny Shortal said the citizens of Dunwoody depend on the city to make sure construction is safe. “Our citizens demand quality and safety,” Shortal said.
Nall noted that no resident has come before the council to speak about the amendment to the building code who doesn’t represent the development community.
Though Nall and Councilman Doug Thompson agreed that the city may lose contracts by requiring higher grade and more expensive materials, “life safety issues” should be considered the priority and require higher quality.
The ordinance currently specifies anything up to five stories above grade can be framed with light frame materials, and any structures taller than five stories above grade must be framed with more durable materials that typically include metal and/or concrete.
“We don’t need just any development. We need quality,” Thompson said.
Council woman Lynn Deutsch said she felt more concerned about the way she leaves Dunwoody for its future citizens and wants to ensure that Class A buildings don’t degrade to Class C within a decade. She said that if the changes don’t work out, the city can change the law later.
“Well, I’m the lone guy against this,” Mayor Mike Davis said at the end of the discussion.
He said he wanted to make sure his perspective was noted. “I hate doing something with the thought, ‘Well, if we don’t like it we can change it,’” Davis said.