Leavenworth County officials plan to form a committee to look into the possible implementation of building codes for unincorporated areas of the county.

Leavenworth County officials plan to form a committee to look into the possible implementation of building codes for unincorporated areas of the county.

County commissioners took no formal action on the issue Wednesday. But they reached a consensus to proceed with the formation of the committee.

Commissioners discussed the issue during a work session that followed their regular weekly meeting.

Currently, the county government has no building codes.

Jeff Joseph, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said his department issues building permits. But builders are only required to meet zoning and subdivision regulations which deal with things such as setback requirements and height restrictions.

Joseph said the new committee will include professionals such as engineers, architects and plumbers. He said the group can make recommendations regarding what building codes should be implemented in the county.

“We can select which ones we need,” he said.

He said county officials are looking at “just the basic building requirements” and the codes would be applied to new residential structures.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said it probably would be advisable to also apply building codes to commercial buildings.

Joseph said the committee’s recommendations will be presented to the county’s Planning Commission for review. The recommendations then would be brought to the Leavenworth County Commission for approval.

One of the issues raised during Wednesday’s work session concerned inspections related to any building codes that are approved by the County Commission.

Loughry said the county government could contract for inspection services. But he said the county would not be obligated to conduct inspections even if building codes are implemented.

Senior County Counselor David Van Parys said the adoption of building codes would set the standard for the county even if inspections are not required.

Van Parys said someone who is found not to have followed the codes when building a structure could end up being held liable later on.

Some members of the Planning Commission attended Wednesday’s work session.

Steve Rosenthal, chairman of the Planning Commission, said real estate agents he works with think it is time for the county to adopt building codes.

Rosenthal said most people who purchase homes in the county probably believe the houses were constructed according to codes.

“They’re just assuming there are codes everywhere,” he said.

County Commissioner Jeff Culbertson has expressed opposition to implementing building codes for the county.

He said the implementation of building codes will increase expenses for homeowners. He said hiring an inspector would be an expense for the county government.

Culbertson said a homeowner can choose to build a house in the county to certain standards even if codes are not in place.

County Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said she does not have a problem with exempting county residents who build their own homes. But she believes building codes should be applied to professional contractors.

“I think they should be held to a different standard,” she said.

County Commissioner Chad Schimke expressed support for some structural and electrical codes because of safety concerns.

But Schimke said he would be against requiring inspections.

Local surveyor Joe Herring, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, questioned whether there is a massive problem with the construction of homes in the county.

Kaaz said she sees the issue as a matter of being proactive rather than reactive.

Schimke expressed concern about possible dangers to first responders who respond to emergencies at homes that were constructed without building codes.

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