Belle Alert: Final Fire Regs to Be Voted On

March 10, 2009

We wanted to give you a quick head’s up on an important vote happening at tonight’s (March 10th) COWncil meeting. If you want to be herd on this issue, this will probably be your last chance!

On the Public Hearing agenda is the proposed adoption of the fire regulations that will essentially extend 7A provisions through out the Town, plus adopt fire resistant materials rules. We wrote about this back in January for instance. There wasn’t much public comment at the last COWncil meeting on the subject, though the COWncil discussed it at length.

When it was discussed at the last meeting, some concerns were expressed over how to treat people currently in the planning process, with an apparent consensus that some leeway must be given due to the expense of redrawing architectural plans and the like. Several different deadlines were proposed – we’ll have to see what the final language looks like. There is a possibility of mailings being sent out to people currently in the building process, but that was not definite as of the last meeting. COWncil member Hodges pointed out that the critical procedures are still being rewritten.

Some other concerns and proposals were noted, and hopefully will be reflected in the final draft. The idea of having copies of the regulations available at the kiosk in Town Hall was put forward, as was the strong suggestion that the ASRB be educated “immediately.” COWncil member Mason suggested that Town staff should start gathering photos of roofs and renovations that meet the new requirements, in order to show “what 7A looks like,” in order to encourage people to try to preserve Woodside’s historical rural character but with modern fire safety.

COWncil member Tanner stated that people can still have wood roofs “if they really want it,” due to various treatments that will bring wood into compliance with 7A, however, at some cost. COWncil member Romines said he was in favor of it due to it “eliminating arbitrariness,” and that it resolved his concern over labeling certain properties a ‘Very High Fire’ risk. This led to a discussion about possible reduction in insurance costs, if the whole Town were subject to 7A requirements.

Assistant Town Manager Kevin Bryant said he had spoken to the State Department of Insurance. He said they weren’t “real encouraging,” but his feeling was that the new regulations could not help but help. He didn’t want to give the COWncil members any false hope, however, and COWncil member Tanner said that with 75% of Woodside still not being up to the code for years to come, it might not be a good idea to ask insurance companies to poke around.

One very interesting moment came when COWncil member Hodges said it was important to tell people that “we’re not to blame” for these regulations. She was immediately disputed by the rest of the COWncil, who said that they were “to blame.” COWncil member Burow said that every COWncil member should expect to be buttonholed by constituents about this issue, and that if members of the COWncil didn’t want that, then “they knew how to vote.” Hodges again said that it was the Fire District pushing these regulations, but Mayor Mason said clearly it was the COWncil who had decided to act on this idea and extend 7A throughout the Town.

So, if you have concerns about the stricter fire regulations being imposed on the Town (minus some landscape rules still being worked out, that will probably come back to COWncil in the future), the meeting on the 10th is your chance to be herd.

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