Foundation ordinance gets first OK

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The Steamboat Springs City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance requiring building-foundation surveys, but agreed to some tweaking.

At Tuesday's meeting, surveyors and builders said the new regulation could add $1,000 to $4,000 to the cost of building a house -- and they said that cost would hit owner-contractors the hardest.

The ordinance would require builders to have a licensed surveyor stake the excavation work before pouring a foundation. A survey of the complete foundation would be required 30 days after the foundation walls are completed.

The intent is to prevent builders from going too far in the building process before realizing a home is in the wrong place.

"Really, it is my opinion, shared by all city staff, there are no longer any excuses for not ensuring both the homebuilder and the neighbor that the house is built where it is supposed to be and where the builder said it would be," City Manager Paul Hughes said.

Surveyors and builders said it would be homeowner-builders who would feel the financial burden of the ordinance the most and would be slowed by the extra step. Professional contractors already employ surveyors and factor their time into the building process.

"A lot of folks don't know about the ordinance, and they will be the ones caught up and held up in this because of the lack of surveyors," said John Shively of the Yampa Valley Trade Association.

Shively asked whether the ordinance would allow flexibility for contractors to make changes to where the foundation was placed as long as it remained within the setback and building envelope.

He also asked that commercial properties be exempt because the problems that spurred the ordinance involve residential units.

The council agreed to look at those requests.

Councilman Steve Ivancie suggested that the city needs to respond more consistently to those who build their houses in the wrong place.

"We are at this point because of the enforcement, because of the lack of it, and sometimes the city has to look in the mirror and say we are part of the problem," Ivancie said.

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