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Ocean City Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville, left, and  Chief Building Official Jacob Doub recommended to the mayor and city council to adopt the 2018 International Code Council’s building code model, as well as update the city’s codes to match those of the Fire Marshal’s office, Tuesday, Jan. 14. 

(Jan. 17, 2020) The Ocean City Council agreed with a city staff recommendation Tuesday to update its Chapter 10 building codes according to the 2018 International Code Council building code model and to bring the city’s codes more in line with those of the Fire Marshal’s office. 

“We are required to adopt some standardized code by the state,” said Bill Neville, Ocean City Planning and Community Development Director. “We would recommend that the council would consider doing what we did in the past, which is to adopt the 2018 code with a set of amendments.” 

The International Code Council updates its model every three years, but typically clarifies existing codes, rather than changing them. 

The International Code Council’s model features three sections of code: International Building Code, International Residential Code and International Energy Conservation Code. 

If the city were to adopt the 2018 update, it would increase building costs in some areas and lower them in others.

Examples of potential cost increases included a lighting requirement for public exits, a stainless steel staple requirement for treated wood and an increase from a 75 percent LED lighting requirement to 90 percent. 

Chief Building Official Jacob Doub also recommended streamlining everything by amending the city’s code to match the Fire Marshal’s office’s code. 

“[The] fire marshal’s office has one set of codes they follow that are completely different than ours, however, some of the overlap that we’ve come across causes confusion to our residents and our professionals out there,” Doub said. 

One such example is how the fire marshal’s office’s code defines a single-family household as five-unrelated people, while the city’s code restricts it to related people, which complicates over-occupancy enforcement.  

“We’ve come across this a couple times in the summer where we’ve received a complaint, the fire marshal’s office has gone out they’ve said one thing, we’ve gone out and said something else, so there’s been inconsistencies on a couple of different occasions,” Doub said. 

Currently, the city relies on its zoning ordinance’s definition of a single-family home for enforcement, Neville said.

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out another big discrepancy between the codes in regards to 50 percent of the area versus 50 percent of the value of a structure. 

Under the city’s current code, if construction work exceeds 50 percent of the floor area, the builder is required to install a sprinkler system. 

The fire marshal’s code, as well as the flood code, only requires this installation when the project exceeds 50 percent of the structure’s value.

“This is one of the biggest issues [we’ve had],” Meehan said. “[City Manager] Doug [Miller] and I have had to address that and have discussions about that on numerous occasions … I think what you’re doing is exactly the right thing to do, and I think it’s very important that everybody is on the same page. It’ll avoid a lot of conflicts.” 

Doub, Neville and city staff will make the amendments, and bring an edited version of the city’s building code to the mayor and city council for official approval.

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