St. Louis area residents, businesses hampered by inconsistent building codes, report says

BY CAMERON GERBER, The Missouri Times

Local governments in St. Louis County have outdated and redundant building codes on the books, according to a new report. 

The report, released by St. Louis REALTORS Tuesday, focused on commercial and residential codes and electrical, mechanical, and property maintenance. The group found there were no single lists compiling building codes for the county, eventually examining 42 codebooks from 89 communities totaling nearly 17,000 pages. 

The St. Louis region’s combined codes nearly double the length of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code. A consistent countywide code should total around 3,000 pages, according to the report. 

“The status quo is wasteful and frustrating to both residents and businesses. That is why St. Louis REALTORS has been reaching out to local officials and other stakeholders to discuss building a coalition around achieving consistent building codes,” St. Louis REALTORS President Katie Berry said. “We are leading good-faith conversations about achieving consistent building codes because our neighbors and businesses across St. Louis County deserve consistent, equitable access to reliable, updated codes.”

Codebooks ranged back to 1995, while most municipalities adopted codebooks from 2014 and 2015. 

While the association did not back a specific proposal, the report included several potential solutions. One option would be for the county vote to approve a consistent countywide standard — though the authors noted a similar proposal was rejected by voters 50 years ago. 

The group hoped future changes would preserve municipalities’ ability to require re-occupy inspections and occupancy permits. It also encouraged protections for county employees who could lose their jobs under the change, granting them an automatic job offer from the county for a different position. 

Whatever potential reforms may look like, REALTORS said it opposed anything that would change local governments’ zoning authority, comprehensive planning, or architectural review processes.  

A countywide regulation expansion could be funded through inspection and permit fees charged through the county rather than the city, the report said. 

Discussion around the plethora of building codes has gone back several years, according to the report. St. Louis REALTORS launched a Consistent Regulation Task Force two years ago to gather data for a proposed regulatory board sponsored by the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis, which led to the study. 

The report is the beginning of a reinvigorated push for consistent codes across St. Louis County. REALTORS will release a second report in the coming months on other metropolitan areas’ uniform codes and is reaching out to industry leaders and other companies to gauge interest in a possible coalition dedicated to the issue. 

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