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This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Posts in Codes and Regulations.

We have finally reached the last of the five cases from December’s Case Watch with the Virginia Supreme Court’s recent decision in Advanced Towing Company, LLC, et al. v. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Record No. 091180.

Virginia Code Section 46.2-1232 (A) allows localities to regulate towing of trespassing vehicles by ordinance, but is silent on the mode or manner of how to carry out that authority. The last sentence of Section 46.2-1232 provides that if a vehicle is towed from one locality to another, the local ordinance of the locality from which the vehicle was towed governs, if that locality has an ordinance.

As we originally posted on April 30, EPA has issued notice that its recent lead paint regulations may be changing.  Specifically, EPA published a proposed rule on May 6 providing for clarifications and changes in clearance testing.  For commercial contractors thinking they were spared from worrying about lead paint regulation, EPA also issued an advance notice of proposed rule making on May 6 discussing extension of lead paint regulations into commercial and public buildings.

Those interested in commenting on the regulations should step up and do so rapidly.  In the case of the extension into commercial buildings, there is no specific rule proposed at this point so this process will likely take some time.  Nevertheless, the best chance to participate in shaping this discussion is to engage from the start.  Our friend Sean Lintow at SLS Construction continues to provide detailed commentary and has developed an extensive set of comments that may be of interest to contractors following the discussion,

Bug eyedThe EPA's new lead regulations officially went into effect on April 22.  As expected, EPA has promptly issued notice that it intends to change the regulations to remove the "opt out" provision.  The opt-out created an exemption from the regulations where a home owner certified that no child under 6 or pregnant woman occupied the home and that the home was not a child-occupied facility.  The new change will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The removal of the opt out provision was expected and followed a litigation challenge from various advocacy groups.  That litigation resulted in a consent settlement with EPA whereby EPA committed to propose several changes including removal of the opt-out provision.

Back on April 14th I blogged about the creation and anticipated operation of the Virginia Defective Drywall Correction and Restoration Assistance Fund (the "DDCRAF") via two new provisions to the Code of Virginia patroned by Delegate Oder this session.  If you read that posting you'll recall that the purpose of the DDCRAF is to create a perpetual, non-reverting fund to facilitate the remediation of property impacted by the use of "Defective Drywall" in residential construction, and I promised to find out whether funding was lined up for the DDCRAF yet.  Delegate Oder's office has been very responsive and helpful in explaining how they envision funding to come through for the DDCRAF.

Our blog has been inundated with hits on our two blog posts regarding the EPA's new lead paint regulations, Renovators Beware: Lead Paint Regulations Change in April and Lead Paint Regulations April 22: Are You Ready?.  We have fielded a number of questions from folks looking for information on classes and certification with the EPA.

I thought it would be helpful to provide a link where you can sign up for such training with The Training Network.  Just click on schedule of classes for information on specific dates and locations.  I would encourage folks to consider signing up for the classes held in Chantilly by the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association.  We are very active with that organization and they are doing excellent training and advocacy work for the home building industry.

USGS Shake Map Chilean EarthquakeIn the last several months, both Haiti and Chile have been rocked by significant earthquakes.  The difference between the tremendous devastation and loss of life in Haiti and the far lower impact in Chile, despite a much more serious earthquake, is at least in part the direct result of building codes and construction practices.

The earthquake in Haiti registered magnitude 7.0 and resulted in an estimated 200,000 people killed.  The Chilean earthquake registered magnitude 8.8, translating to 500 to 900 times more energy released than the earthquake in Haiti.  The death toll estimates in Chile are still preliminary and changing both up and down, but the current estimate appears to be 528 although it has fluctuated up and down from as high as 800.

Why the dramatic discrepancy?  Read more below the break ...

 

lead paintThe next wave of the EPA's lead paint regulations take effect on April 22.  These regulations will impose new training, certification, work practice and record keeping requirements on contractors performing renovations on structures built prior to 1978.

Reports that we are hearing indicate that the EPA's roll-out of the program has been less than clear.  Some people have struggled to find sufficient openings or available training classes.  Our friend Sean Lintow (@slsconstruction on twitter) reports that in some states, the state governments are taking over the certification process with EPA's blessing, throwing the validity of currently issued certifications into question.

A number of people have asked me specific, important questions which I would like to give my take on, which can be viewed below the break: 

Modular home beforeModular home construction presents significant potential improvements to home construction: significantly reduced construction time; less material waste; and reduced expense.  If not handled appropriately in terms of contracts and risk, modular homes can translate to a gigantic headache for both the designers, contractors, and the owner.

Last Thursday, Lisa Rein of the Washington Post wrote an article on mansions turning to modular construction to reduce time and costs.  The article caught my eye - while I have noticed this trend over the last 5 years or so, it was the first time I saw local mainstream press pick up on this.  My friend Jamie Baker Roskie at the always interesting Land Use Prof Blog picked up on the article and connected the thread towards local codes discouraging use of shipping containers as building materials.

Football PuntAfter much back and forth, the Soil and Water Conservation Board announced on January 14th that they voted to suspend their hotly debated changes to stormwater regulations to permit an additional 30-day comment period.  The stage was formally suspended on January 26, 2010 which means that the status will be stuck in suspension until a new round of comments opens from February 15 through March 17.

We reported on the both the initial regulations and later changes to the proposed regulations which eased some of their impacts on the home building industry.  The Home Builders Association of Virginia indicates that they mobilized significant response and opposition to even the later round of regulations.

Hand with MoneyRockville based contractor Hann & Hann will pay $600,000 plus the plaintffs' legal fees to settle a wage and overtime based class action suitAs reported in the Washington Post by Rubin Castaneda on January 30, 2010, Hann & Hann agreed to pay overtime plus 50% for every employee working with the company not paid overtime between May 8, 2006 and May 8 2008.

There are a couple important subtexts to this case and settlement.  First, reports describe the 200 plus employees and former employees as almost all Spanish speaking immigrants.  This naturally raises questions not only of immigration status, but also of whether the contractor was perceived as taking advantage of employees less able to defend themselves.  In this case, the employees not only had the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on the case, but also were represented by Arnold and Porter pro bono.