25-year inspections proposed for Palm Beach County buildings east of I-95

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Aug 16, 2021 4:54 PM

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Any building 25 years or older could need a safety inspection if it lies east of Interstate 95, according a new program that will be considered Tuesday in Palm Beach County.

The requirement would make inspections in in the county tougher than those in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, a reaction to the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside on June 24.

County commissioners will weigh in on a program drafted by the League of Cities that details a recertification process for hundreds of buildings in the county. Each local government would have to adopt the program; no countywide requirement for building recertification currently exists in Palm Beach County.

Safety inspections would start with buildings 11,000 square feet or more and then 3,500 square feet or more. It proposes that buildings 35 years or older and west of Interstate 95 with the same square footage be inspected after that.

Buildings 25 years and older anywhere with modified balconies, decks and elevated walkways are also recommended to have inspections, the plan says, with inspections every 10 years.

The program says that from October through December, building officials should notify owners whose buildings would fall under the reinspection guidelines that year. From January through March, the property owners would need to return a checklist of structural and electrical inspections to the county or city. Then they would be given 180 days to repair any life-threatening structural and electrical problems.

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Richard Radcliffe, League of Cities’ executive director, said officials have drafted the recertification plan to be a template for each municipality to use as it sees fit, allowing room for local governments to adapt it. Buildings subject to salt air that are more susceptible to corrosion may want to consider plans different from buildings to the west that don’t face the same environment, Radcliffe said.

“We really believe that this should be done by the Legislature. This should be taken care of on a state level, but we’re not about to sit around and let anybody be at risk, and if we produce a document or anything that is in anyway helpful to be used across the state, we’re happy do that,” Radcliffe said.

At a commission meeting July 13, commissioners directed staff to find out which buildings would fit the inspection requirements and to review other programs throughout the country on which to base the county’s model. County staff will give an update Tuesday.

Efforts to ensure buildings are safe have ramped up in Broward and Palm Beach counties since the disaster in Surfside, which killed 98 people. A condo in Coral Springs was evacuated after the city deemed it unsafe, and another condo building in Hallandale Beach evaded a mandatory evacuation Sunday by making necessary repairs of several safety concerns cited by the city.

Boca Raton could become the first city with plans for its own building recertification program, requiring a 30-year recertification and every 10 years after that if the building meets a certain height.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties are currently the only two in the state with required building safety inspection programs, and the League of Cities used Broward County’s as an example in drafting the program, Radcliffe said.

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