Shenandoah County considers building code change

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County plans to bring its building construction and safety rules into line with the state.

The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the matter Tuesday and heard from one property owner, Richard Walker of Woodstock, who questioned the way the county planned to change the regulations on the books.

Director of Community Development Brandon Davis, whose office includes building inspections, spoke about the proposed changes before the hearing. Building official Mike Dellinger and County Attorney J. Jay Litten worked on the changes.

Davis said the purpose was not to change the way they do business. “The purpose is just to bring our ordinances into accord with the state code,” he said.

Officials found that repealing the county’s existing local regulations and adopting the state code made the most sense, Davis said. The proposal calls for the county to adopt only the first part of the property maintenance code.

“All of the portion of that that deals with broken windows and cracked sidewalks and tall grass, none of us wanted to touch it and it’s not something that we feel is appropriate at this time to bring forward,” Davis said.

During the hearing, Walker acknowledged the county has had little say over the regulations in effect at the state level since 2011.

“But I’m concerned with the methodology of how we are enacting a code that our local residents are supposed to be able to comply with,” Walker said.

Walker suggested that the county make changes to the local code if desired rather than scrapping the language on the books and replacing it. Walker said that the local regulations as proposed, similar to the state rules, only give reference to the 2009 International Property Maintenance Code — a set of recognized standards for building construction and safety.

“Have them available and accessible so the people can comply with it and so your local building officials can enforce it,” Walker said. “Doing it by reference is a disservice to the local citizenry and the county inspectors that must enforce it.

“I would urge you at this point to just say no,” Walker added. “You want to change it, change the local code.”

The board took no action on the proposed changes. Supervisors may approve them at their next regular meeting.

Also Tuesday, the board adopted an emergency resolution to extend the filing deadline from Jan. 31 to March 1 for elderly property owners seeking tax relief on their real estate. County code allows qualified taxpayers to receive an exemption or deferral on their bills provided they meet certain criteria. The percent exempted depends on the taxpayer’s income.

County code has required that taxpayers submit applications to the commissioner of the revenue’s office before Jan. 31. District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey sought the emergency motion and said that because of the bad winter weather some elderly taxpayers may not have been able to file.

Litten said he researched the issue and said the board could pass an emergency ordinance for the one-time deadline extension. Board members unanimously approved the ordinance. Chairman David Ferguson and Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley did not attend the meeting.

The board plans to discuss the matter at its work session Wednesday to consider moving the deadline to March 1 permanently.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com