BY MIKE RYAN, MAYOR OF SUNRISE
The Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals (BORA) was formed through a Broward County Charter amendment approximately 40 years ago. BORA, which is not actually a department of Broward County, was tasked to develop building construction standards for Broward County.
However, after the enactment of the 1998 Florida Building Code, much of what BORA does now is really about costing the residents and businesses money, protecting Broward building officials, and treating our cities as enemies.
It is time to ask – why do we need a Board costing $1,500,00 per year?
A Board Undermined by a Hurricane and Legislation
In 1976, BORA developed the South Florida Building Code. That was good … at the time.
After Hurricane Andrew, we realized there was an inconsistent patchwork of over 400 different building codes throughout the State. To correct this problem, the legislature passed the 1998 Florida Building Code, a single, statewide building code system. The Florida Building Code replaced all the individual codes, including BORA’s South Florida Building Code.
A local board, like BORA, can still impose more stringent requirements by passing amendments. However, most counties throughout Florida do not have a local board, choosing instead to utilize the Florida Building Commission for appeals.
So, in 2013, why do we need a Board of Rules and Appeals?
To Protect Broward Examiners, Inspectors, Chiefs and Building Officials?
BORA severely restricts cities in the hiring of Plans Examiners, Inspectors, Chiefs, and Building Officials. On top of the stringent State of Florida exams and certifications, BORA then requires experience working locally in high velocity wind zones and a laundry list of additional requirements.
Translation: you gotta get BORA’s permission to work in this town and you have to be from Broward.
As a result, a “good old boy” network is perpetuated. Cities cannot hire from outside. Resumes received from the next generation throughout the State must be discarded because of the BORA’s protectionist philosophy.
But does BORA even have legal authority to certify building officials?
Florida Statute Section 553.73 empowers BORA to make amendments to the Florida Building Code. However, there are NO provisions addressing certification or qualifications of building officials in the Florida Building Code. Instead, building officials are certified by the State pursuant to Florida Statutes Sections 468.601-633. So, maybe BORA is pre-empted and this has been illegal all along?
A Revenue Source Diverting Monies from Cities, Residents and Businesses?
The Board is funded by a “68 cents per $1,000 dollars of construction value” surcharge on all building permits issued in Broward County. Last year, Sunrise collected $100,000 from residents and businesses to hand over to BORA.
Despite challenging times, the Board is actually projecting a revenue increase for FY 2013 of $500,000 over FY 2010 collections of license and fee charges on our residents and businesses.
Bizarrely, on an upcoming Agenda, 3 BORA staff, responsible for road-blocking cities from hiring part time building officials, are actually being recommended for retroactive bonuses!
To Impose BORA’s Will on Cities and Communities?
BORA’s Amendments to the Florida Building Code make it challenging for new businesses most familiar with the State-wide Florida Building Code.
Sometimes BORA overturns decisions by a city, only to have that decision create havoc. The reputation of the BORA staff is to be as difficult as possible with cities, and to make up the rules as they go along.
Repeal BORA through Charter Amendment?
Some question whether or not the Board has the legal authority under Florida Law to impose hiring restrictions on personnel who are qualified by stringent State standards. Perhaps it is time for legal action to stop the application of protectionist policies?
If BORA persists in their hiring restrictions on otherwise qualified building personnel, then the time has come to thank them for their service and close this part of Broward history through another voter approved Charter Amendment.
(Michael J. Ryan, mayor of Sunrise since 2010, is a trial lawyer)