For owners, developers and contractors, the interpretation and application of local and state building ordinances can be a frustrating process. This is especially true when city and town regulations appear to be more demanding, and even inapposite, to the Massachusetts State Building Code.
Inconsistent regulations lead to uncertain and inconsistent application of the law by local building inspectors, ultimately resulting in unnecessary delay and expense to everyone involved.
Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a decision that should be welcomed by contractors and inspectors alike. In St. George Greek Orthodoz Cathedral of Western Massachusetts v. Fire Department of Springfield, the Court struck down a local fire ordinance enacted by the City of Springfield that was inconsistent with the State Building Code. The St. George decision recognizes the primacy of the State Building Code and the Massachusetts Legislature’s intention to create a uniform set of regulations for the safe construction, maintenance and operation of public and private buildings.
In a recent memorandum, Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas Gatzunis wrotes that the St. George case “stands for the proposition that any municipal dictate inconsistent with the Code is impermissible.” This would seem to be the case whether the local ordinance or by-law imposes standards that are more or less stringent than the State Building Code.
If you are a property owner or contractor experiencing delay on a construction project due to unclear or conflicting regulations, please contact the attorneys at The Law Office of Peter Mirageas for more information.