The city of Union could soon have a change in its Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating.
At the Jan. 27 planning and zoning commission meeting, City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann said the city’s ISO rating is likely to increase because it’s using an old code.
The city is currently in the process of updating to a new building code. Zimmermann said that process is weighing on the ISO rating.
“The older your building code gets, the (higher) your rating goes,” he said.
Zimmermann said the city used to have a 5-6 rating by ISO. He said now it’s likely to be a 9-9 rating.
The city is currently operating out of the 2009 version of codes published by the International Code Council.
The codes are updated every three years, but the city doesn’t like to update that often.
In order to give builders a chance to get familiar with the code, Zimmermann said the city likes to get 10 years out of a code before making a switch to the new one.
Zimmermann said the biggest reason for the ISO rating change is the newer codes have a heavier focus on sprinklers and other measures that reduce loss. He said ISO, as an insurance company, is focused on reducing loss.
Once the city adopts the new codes, Zimmermann said it will get a new ISO ratings.
The city started the code review process in September. Zimmermann said he has several more presentations to make to the planning and zoning board before it can de adopted and official.
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.
In September, the board got a first look by having 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.