Union’s planning and zoning commission began its review of the new building codes by considering exemptions.

City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann presented the commission the first look at the new edition of the building codes. The city is now under the 2009 version of codes published by the International Code Council. 

Zimmermann said the goal is to get up to current standards. He said the codes are updated every three years and the city typically updates the codes every 10 years. 

Codes were updated by the city in 2000 and in 2010 the city adopted the 2009 codes. The goal is to adopt the newest version this year.

Zimmermann told the commission over the next few months it would have a chance to weigh in on changes and additions to the code. First up was a review of things that the city has traditionally removed or at least altered from the code book.

The first issue addressed  by the board were one-story detached structures commonly known as sheds. The code book allows them without a permit, but the city has traditionally required a permit.

Zimmermann said the permit allows the city guidance on where to place the structure. Otherwise sheds could be placed on property lines, easements or rights of ways.

The commission agreed with Zimmermann that a permit should still be required in the city. Commission Chair Greg Bailey said he thought the city should be able to have some controls to prevent the structures from being placed in improper locations.

The second issue raised by Zimmermann involved fences. The new code proposed allowing fences under 7 feet to be built without a permit.

Zimmermann said the city has required a permit in order to control location. He said there have been issues with unregulated fences being built in the right of way that subsequently have to be moved. 

The commission agreed to keep requiring fence permits.

The third issue brought up by the new codes was a change Zimmermann supported. In the new codes, a retaining wall under 4 feet in height does not need a permit. 

Zimmermann said he felt this was fair for smaller projects. Larger ones would still require a permit and an engineer.

The board agreed and said no permit was needed for the smaller walls. 

The plan board also backed maintaining the old code for sidewalks and driveways and prefabricated pools. 

For the sidewalks and driveways, those will still have to be inspected by the city. Pools deeper than 24 inches will require a permit. 

Zimmermann said the rest of exceptions in the code were very minor. He said the code allows people to do regular maintenance like change light bulbs without needing a permit — common sense things, he said. 

With the exemptions reviewed, Zimmermann said the next chapter the board will be focusing on is energy efficiency. 

He said normally the city excludes that part, but he said it’s worth taking a look at this year. He said he hopes to prepare a cost sheet to show the expected costs of an energy-efficient compliant project. 

The plan board will continue to review the new code before making a decision on adopting it.