Thank you for all the work that governmental leaders in our region have been taking to keep our community safe.
And thank you for the sensitivity and creativity that is being exhibited to adapt processes and regulations to allow for economic activity to continue in the development and building portion of Central Ohio’s economy. On behalf of the hundreds of private sector companies and thousands of workers in those organizations, we appreciate the collective efforts of the regulating community to keep people employed during these unprecedented times.
The BIA of Central Ohio has been working with many of you over the past several days on alternatives to “business as usual.” At this point in time, it seemed appropriate to develop this memo to offer a set of comprehensive considerations for all governments in our region.
BIA member companies build and remodel apartments, condominiums and homes at all price points. We are working collaboratively with local governments wherever possible to ensure that construction projects on behalf of citizens in our region are not unnecessarily delayed and that residents can continue working.
We appreciate that local leaders and Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted has encouraged local government offices to remain open. Additionally, the Ohio Board of Building Standards, and the Ohio Department of Commerce, is urging local building departments to continue permit processing utilizing remote services whenever possible.
Declarations of a State of Emergency
A state of emergency has been declared in the State of Ohio, the City of Columbus and potentially in other jurisdictions as well.
Based on the experiences of other communities around the country, we ask consideration for the following to accompany all Declarations of Emergency OR Sheltering in Place decisions:
• Designation of construction activity to be considered an “essential service.” Other regions of the country have made this designation in recognition of the ability of construction activity to occur in a manner consistent with public health guidance (outdoor, work, with limited person to person exposure via appropriate distancing, etc.) and the importance of employment/economic activity for the region
• Granting permit and plan approval extensions for permits/plans expiring between March 1 and, at minimum, June 29, 2020.
• Allow work to continue on preliminary design approvals, with post-construction final approvals, including the Certificates of Occupancy, once the state of emergency restriction is lifted.
• Consider financial institutions, including title and escrow operations, for essential service designation.
For jurisdictions with online submission, we ask that you ensure permitting offices to have a designated point of contact, even if the local staff are working remotely or not available face-to-face. For jurisdictions without online submission, we ask for a physical no-contact permit drop off so staff can process permits remotely.
Many council meetings, planning commissions, plan review committees and related meetings have been suspended for the next few weeks. Should public health guidelines remain in place for an extended period beyond the next few weeks, we strongly ask consideration for alternatives to allow the consideration of proposals.
The Ohio Attorney General has given guidance to allow virtual, online meetings as compliant with Ohio meeting laws. State of Emergency powers can also allow for Executive Authority in lieu of selected legislative functions. We ask for consideration of locally appropriate hearing processes until the State of Emergency is lifted.
Several communities have established alternative inspection processes. Should a community find a need to change its inspection process in the future, we suggest consideration of options, including the following:
• Inspectors calling the project site contact from their vehicle and doing an inspection with no one else on-site and a phone debrief after inspection.
• Video or delayed, ex post facto, inspections. These can be live and/or builder recorded video of the various stages of construction, which could then be used in real-time or in a post-construction permitting process for compliance.
• Contract with third-party inspection services, and licensed engineers/architects, if the local government can’t provide these services during this crisis.
Barring any life/safety concerns, we request that local governments delay implementation of any new regulations in this current time of emergency and uncertainty.
Again, thank you for all the work you have been doing to help keep our region safe and also keep our people employed and the economy going.
Do not hesitate to contact the BIA at any time. We pledge during this unprecedented time to work creatively with our member companies to accommodate the needs of local government to fulfill its regulatory duties