Friday, October 9, 2 pm
Mayor Newberry addresses Fire Safety (?) in UK campus-adjacent housing issue.
“I want to begin by giving just a little history about this problem so everybody can put it into a little perspective. There have been a number of conversations over the course of the last few months in regard to how neighborhoods around the University of Kentucky have been impacted by abnormally large numbers of people living in what heretofore had been single-family dwellings. Many of those properties have been remodeled in recent years and the end result of those remodeling efforts had been that a significant number of people—more than what you would typically imagine in a single-family dwelling—are living in these places, creating an assortment of issues that have impacted the neighborhoods.”
...“We began to ask whether or not there might be some issues relative to fire code violations and whether or not there might be life safety issues in some of these facilities. Under our historical way of inspecting single-family dwellings they are not routinely subjected to inspection by our fire department as apartment buildings and commercial buildings are on a regular basis.”
Fire department took a look on a “sampling” sort of basis. The results of that survey are the reason for the press conference.
Assistant Chief Branham:
“Random sampling of the larger homes—big box homes—whatever you want to call them. Encountering: lack of smoke detection in bedrooms, or inoperable. Doors padlocked into bedrooms. In the 13 to 14 we got into, we found significant issues.”
“we are certainly concerned about the safety of the residents of these facilities.
This is not an effort to try to generate revenue for the city from fines for fire code violations.”
Met this morning with representatives from: Homebuilders Association; Remodelers Council of the Homebuilders; Greater Lexington Apartment Association; University Area Housing Association; representatives from our neighborhoods. Working with them on “outreach.”
Will utilize: GTV3; posting info on website (may be Monday); prospect of seminar for property owners/development community; networking with neighborhoods; email newsletter; relying on Local Media to help get word out. Short Term.
Over the longer term: an accreditation program (something akin to Good Housekeeping seal of approval - working with Officer Gaines).
Also, looking to see…
“to what extent our zoning code may be violated as a consequence of having abnormally large numbers of people living in single family dwellings. There are some things our building inspectors can do now. We will take appropriate legal measures to compel people to abide by their obligations under the zoning code. That will take a while. To make the changes in the neighborhood we really need to make…Beginning on Monday our law department has identified some modifications we can begin to make to our permitting process. There will be certain representations that we will require from Owners as they submit their building permit applications. There will be some additional certifications we’ll require from Owners when we obtain their application for final inspection. We will be issuing a certificate of occupancy for these remodeled facilities, unlike the prior practice. We don’t know exactly how long the prior practice has been in place…about 25 years. Will start changing that next week. To the extent Owners utilize Agents to process the paperwork, we will further document the right of the Agent on behalf of the Owners, just to make sure the Owners are aware of what’s going on. Along the way we will continue to look to other cities to identify Best Practices from around the country. But we are at least getting started. We will continue to monitor those areas in the community that need to be inspected…Want the public to know they can call 311, or the fire department, or building inspection directly…to the extent the public has additional information, we welcome that and will act on it in appropriate fashion.”
Concludes, “I don’t consider this a panacea to the problems of congregant living facilities as they’re called in the fire code. I’m sure we’ll continue to need to work with the Council to identify changes to our zoning laws in order to more fully address that.”