Cranberry Township board hears code enforcement appeals for other municipalities

January 11, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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CRANBERRY TWP — An intergovernmental agreement between the township and Sewickley borough this week may not be put to use often, but shows the ability of governments to work together, officials said.

During a meeting of supervisors this week, the board approved an cooperation ordinance between the township and Sewickley that allows the borough to use the township's Uniform Construction Code Board of Appeals for appeals to code enforcement decisions.

According to Ron Henshaw, director of planning and development services for the township, statewide building codes put into effect in 2003 required every municipality to have their own appeals board. He said Cranberry already had such a board, though it was only called upon periodically.

Henshaw said that trend isn't unique to Cranberry, as the Middlesex Township board — of which he is a member — has heard just one appeal in nearly 15 years.

Because of that, municipalities found themselves having a hard time filling seats on their respective boards. Boroughs such as Callery and Zelienople approached Cranberry Township to use their boards for appeals.

“It's a great intergovernmental cooperation for us to do,” Henshaw said.

Henshaw said Sewickley officials believed they had an appeal potentially coming, and realized they didn't have a board in place. They reached out to the township about using the same intergovernmental agreement as Callery and Zelienople, Henshaw said.

“We said absolutely, we're happy to do it,” he said.

Even with hearing appeals for four municipalities, Henshaw said the appeals process happens, “very seldom.” He said as with Middlesex Township, years can go by without a hearing occurring.

Part of that also has to do with the process in which permits are issued and inspections are conducted. Henshaw said the township, “does everything we can to make sure applicants understand what the codes are.”

He added that if there is a dispute, officials look at International Codes Council descriptions, which ensures the interpretation of the code is accurate. This works as a mediation process, Henshaw said, thus limiting the need for appeals later.

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