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BOCA RATON — Boca Raton now has one of the strongest building inspection laws in the state, and it will put hundreds of buildings under the microscope beginning immediately.
The City Council unanimously approved the ordinance Tuesday night in an attempt to increase building safety after the collapse in June of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.
The ordinance requires safety and structural inspections for every building older than 30 years. Building owners will be responsible for the cost of improvements, meaning assessments and condo fees are likely to increase for residents.
Broward and Miami-Dade counties have the only inspection laws in Florida, and they begin when a building reaches 40 years old.
Palm Beach County is considering an inspection law, but it could be months away. Currently, buildings are approved before construction and then inspected only if complaints are filed.
Hundreds of buildings in Boca meet the criteria for inspection: at least 30 years old and taller than three stories or 50 feet. Priority for inspections will be given to buildings near the ocean, which are most susceptible to saltwater corrosion.
About 20 complex sit near the ocean, some with two or three buildings each.
A total of 242 buildings citywide would be subject to inspections now, said Brandon Schaad, director of development services. He recommended dividing the city into four zones of about 60 buildings each. The city would address the easternmost zone first and move west.
The first zone is the barrier island, east of the Intracoastal Waterway. The second zone would extend west to Dixie Highway, the third zone to just west of Interstate 95 and the fourth to the city’s western boundaries.
- Explicitly exempts detached single-family homes and duplexes.
- Requires draft versions of engineering reports to be submitted.
- Requires building owners to submit a repair plan to the city within 30 days of an inspection that finds needed repairs.
- Requires buildings to be recertified every 10 years after their initial certification.
The program will cost the city about $250,000 annually, according to City Manager Leif Ahnell.
The city will need to hire an administrative worker to handle paperwork, a code enforcement officer and an engineer, although an engineering firm could be retained instead of hiring an individual.
At least some of those costs will be offset by fees paid by building owners, who also would need to pay engineers for their inspections.
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“We expect there will be a fee for the city’s review of the reports, but that has not been set yet. The inspections and reports are required to be prepared by engineers, so the building owners will have a cost for that,” a city spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
Several council members called for enacting the ordinance quickly.
“I don’t want to see perfection be the enemy of progress,” said Councilman Andy Thomson. “We need to implement it as soon as we can.”
Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke said Boca should not wait for the county or state to pass an inspection law. She also discouraged waiting for a final report on the Surfside collapse, as some local governments are.
“Moving today is important,” Mayor Scott Singer said.