by A.C. Hall
Last week the Benbrook City Council discussed re-approving resident swimming pool requirements. These were effected in October of 2013 when the council adopted the 2012 International Building Codes.
“The provisions were inadvertently omitted that effected the requirements for swimming pools,” Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis said.
The ordinance before council would reinstate those omitted swimming pool provisions. Council member Larry Marshall objected to the wording of the provisions, especially where it spoke about barriers that must exist around yards with pools. The requirement is that a standard privacy fence around a yard with a pool has to feature the smooth side facing outwards.
“There are fences already built in the community that are just one sided around pools,” Marshall said.
Building Official Ismael Rivera was asked to respond to this concern.
“There are alternate methods that can be authorized by the building official on a case by case basis,” Rivera said.
He said that the city has no problem working with people on this matter. They require a citizen to present alternative barrier options they think will work to keep the pool safe, and then Rivera will consider it.
“As long as that part of it is protected in a manner that doesn’t permit a child to climb, we’ll be more than happy to look at alternate methods,” Rivera said.
Marshall continued to speak against the ordinance, saying it needed to be reworded. He was told about latch height requirements, requirements for doors leading to pools to be equipped with audible alarms when opened, and was even told that the barrier requirement was developed with the help of doctors. None of this information swayed Marshall’s opinion.
“I don’t think this was well thought out. I don’t care if it was a bunch of doctors that contributed to it, they probably weren’t very thorough,” Marshall said.
City Manager Andy Wayman got involved in the discussion.
“We’re simply cleaning up an administrative error,” Wayman said.
He told Marshall that the ordinance before him was something already in place in the city up until October when it was accidentally omitted, and was being put back in just as it existed before.
“I’m not aware of any significant issues that we’ve had that have caused a burden on our homeowners related to the provisions you’re readopting tonight,” Wayman said. He continued, saying that not every situation fits into a box, but he has received very few complaints on this issue and feels that the ordinance is sound.
Marshall spoke more about the need for fences to be constructed with the smooth side facing outwards, saying that passing this ordinance will force some people with pools to go back and retro-fit the fencing in their backyard.
“We don’t go back and retroactively look at every pool that’s been built,” Gattis said. “We basically look at when a new pool is built, whether it complies with our requirements.”
This moved Marshall’s attention to new homes.
“So all future houses are going to have to have double siding if they intend on putting in a pool?” Marshall.
Gattis explained that if they are building a new fence, then a new home will need to face it outwards with the smooth side facing out. If an existing fence is there that faces the other way, he said the homeowners will need to get with Rivera about an alternative barrier.
A motion to approve the ordinance was made. It paseed 5 to 1, with Marshall voting against.
An ordinance was unanimously passed that will allow construction on Saturdays. Previously, builders in Benbrook were allowed to work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Gattis stated that this rule goes back to 1974, and builders have been pointing out that most cities allow Saturday construction now.
Home builders will now be allowed to work from 7 to 6 Monday through Saturday during the winter, and 7 to 8 Monday through Saturday during the Summer. They are prohibited from working on Sundays and on federal holidays. Infrastructure construction will remain Monday through Friday, unless several requirements are met. Infrastructure builders will need to give the city 48 hours notice that they wish to work on Saturday, a city inspector will need to be available, the contractor will have to pay the cost of the inspector, and the City Engineer will need to approve the Saturday work.
Council member Ron Sauma asked how these changes will be communicated. He was told it will go on the website and will be told to builders when they pick up permits.
“I’m not concerned about the builders, I’m concerned about the neighbors who are concerned about the noise,” Sauma said.
He was told that it could be put in the local paper, but Gattis cautioned that he’s not sure how many people read the paper, so a lot of citizens will still not hear about it.