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City Beat: Council considers building code overhaul

Also, Springfield Identity Project pitches new flag design to council committee

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A major change to Springfield’s residential building codes could be on the way.

City Council on Nov. 4 held a first reading on an ordinance to repeal Springfield’s residential building code in its entirety and adopt a new code, effective July 1, 2021. Springfield Building Development Services Director Harlan Hill presented the ordinance to council, with the biggest point being energy conservation, as well as soil and wind capacities.

Officials want to adopt the 2018 or 2021 International Building Code, Hill said, noting the city is currently using the 2012 version.

“Our goal was to try and meet an equitable balance between full adoption and some of what the development community was proposing,” Hill said.

The ordinance in front of council represents a mix of proposals from the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield and Springfield Building Development Services as recommended by council’s Plans and Policies Committee. The ordinance’s language also was reviewed by the Springfield Contractors Association, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Missouri Society of Professional Engineers, according to city documents attached to the bill.

Building Development Services staff have met with design and construction industry officials over a three-month span to discuss the impact of the code changes.

Several of the 13 people who addressed council were unsure about fully moving to the 2018 International Building Code, saying it would push people to build houses outside of city limits and drive up costs.

“I think you need to move with caution when moving forward on this because there are people that will be forced into permanent renter status,” said Rusty MacLachlan, a local homebuilder, who also identified himself as a board member for Habitat for Humanity.

MacLachlan said under the 2018 code, a 1,500-square-foot home would increase by nearly $5,000 in construction costs.

Among the proposed code changes are operating pressure for piping systems; residential service upgrades, such as electrical improvements to carbon monoxide and smoke detectors; and increased standards for energy conservation, like the design of thermal envelopes to seal homes from outside air.

A few of the younger speakers in favor of updating energy efficiency codes asked council to be mindful of greenhouse gas pollution and the city’s environmental responsibility.

The speakers mostly favored an alternate ordinance drafted by Councilman Richard Ollis that would phase in energy conservation provisions by adopting amendments proposed by the Springfield HBA. If approved, amendments from Building Development Services would be enacted on July 1, 2021.

Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance Nov. 18.

Flag proposal
The day after the council meeting, the city’s Community Involvement Committee heard a presentation on a potential new look for the city flag.

John McQueary and Jeff Houghton, founding members of the Springfield Identity Project, pitched their idea to City Hall two and a half years after a grassroots effort to put the flag in the public eye.

Following the presentation, a public campaign to gauge citizen interest of the new flag design is being considered in the coming weeks by members of the committee and the city’s Department of Public Information and Civic Engagement.

The proposed sky blue flag features a compass crown to represent the Queen City, a white stripe for Route 66 and Ozarks plateaus, and three stars for connection with nature, Ozarks culture and the spirit of innovation. McQueary said the design is open source and has no trademark or copyright designation.

“We need to have our own unique symbolism,” Houghton said.

A Springfield Identity Project committee initially worked on the design, marketing and art for the flag in February 2016 and the new look made its debut in March 2017. McQueary said multiple designs were considered.

Houghton said the proposed flag has received endorsements from the Downtown Springfield Association, Springfield Regional Arts Council, History Museum on the Square and Springfield Creatives.

The design can be seen around town on hats and T-shirts, murals at The Coffee Ethic and Hotel Vandivort and even on cans of White River Brewing Co.’s Springfed Ale. Also, Five Pound Apparel and Phelps Grove Outfitters have merchandise featuring the flag.

“If it’s connecting with the community, let’s consider this thing being official,” McQueary said.

Cora Scott, the city’s director of Public Information and Civic Engagement, said the current flag was adopted in 1938 after an eight-week process. There have been no modifications to the flag since then.

“We don’t want to get rid of the current flag,” Houghton said, citing the desire to keep it as a historical designation.

New energy district
After voting to exit the Missouri Clean Energy District on Sept. 23, council heard an ordinance to join the Show Me Property Assessment Clean Energy District.

“This proposed council bill would include only commercial properties and does not apply to residential,” said Errin Kemper, the city’s director of Environmental Services.

Show Me PACE requires consent from mortgage lenders and uses a third-party collector for annual assessments, said Josh Campbell, executive director of the nonprofit Missouri Energy Initiative.

MEI is the contracted administrator for Show Me PACE and reports annually to the Missouri Division of Energy, Campbell said.

To receive Show Me PACE funding, contractors and commercial property owners would submit applications that include a signed contractor bid, savings analysis and an assessment draft. According to the Show Me PACE website, the applicant also would need written consent from a mortgage lender. Once finalized, funds would be released from the lender for the designated projects.

He said the nonprofit has funded $42 million in projects to date and is in 50 communities statewide. Show Me PACE charges 1% for projects over $500,000 and 1.25% on projects below that threshold.

“We have done projects that range from agriculture to multifamily to commercial and hotel and hospitality,” he said, adding the organization has funded more than 20 projects statewide.

Council members had cited mortgage lender concerns, a lack of an economic benefit statement for projects and statutory limits for loan amounts and loans exceeding 50% of property values for the exit from the Missouri Clean Energy District. Mayor Ken McClure raised the question about financial institutions opposing the PACE program from previous discussions.

“Each one of those projects, the local bank has consented,” Campbell responded. “Our board will not approve any project that the mortgage holder does not consent to.”

Council is scheduled to vote to join Show Me PACE on Nov. 18.

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