City of Houghton residents have reason for concern

A couple of weeks ago odds are that most property owners in the city of Houghton were unaware of the International Property Maintenance Code. But now, thanks to letters sent out by the city, more than a hundred homeowners could be in violation of portions of that Code.

According to the website of the International Code Council, the IPMC was written in 1998, the culmination of an effort initiated by the ICC’s code development committee.

The goal was to come with a comprehensive set of regulations for existing buildings that is consistent with property maintenance codes. The IPCM has been updated several times, the last in 2012.

As Garrett Neese reported in Thursday’s Page 1 story the City of Houghton adopted the code in December. Several residents attended Wednesday’s city council meeting to discuss the letter.

The code has numerous provisions involving plumbing, mechanical, electrical, fire safety and more.

However it was in section 304.2 of the code that many residents found themselves in violation. The section, which concerns exterior surfaces of buildings, states the outside of buildings should be protected by paint or other protective coverings or treatments.

What concerns us is that these letters deal almost exclusively with a home’s appearance, and no other health or safety factor.

Houghton resident Buck Foltz, a recipient of a letter, told the council the letter was “the most callous, elitist, piece of garbage I’ve ever seen in my life.”

While we will stop short of Mr. Foltz’s assessment, we worry these “violations” constitute selective enforcement.

Shouldn’t the priority of any codes be the safety of a home and the health and welfare of its inhabitants, not purely how esthetically pleasing it is?

While we acknowledge a home’s appearance contributes to a neighborhood and city’s value, we feel the city should be concerned with more than a building’s “outside.”

At Wednesday’s city council meeting, city manager Eric Waara said the letters were meant to begin a dialogue between city officials and homeowners. “We re hoping that it (letter) can incite some discussion.

We will watch this issue unfold with some apprehension, hoping all buildings and neighborhoods are treated equally and that the city’s scrutiny does not end at exterior appearances.