New home construction projects will have fewer inspections to endure in Highland, but certifications and state inspectors will be added to the process.
The Highland City Council voted this week to approve a new process for residential construction that reduces the number of inspections. Some city officials felt the number and frequency of inspections on new home construction was contributing to stagnation in new home construction in Highland.
Indeed, Highland’s number of single- or double-family home permits has dropped from 75 in 2006 to a low of four permits in 2014. Since 2016, it’s hovered between 11 and 12 permits per year.
That’s a growth rate of about 1.2 percent, which is less than half what experts consider healthy for a city like Highland, according to planning and zoning administrator Breann Speraneo.
In the final proposal, the city opted to keep 12 of its 18 inspections, with three more handed to the state and three eliminated. This will allow the inspections to take place in seven site visits for further streamlining, according to city documents.
The state of Illinois will do three plumbing inspections on behalf of the city. One foundation wall waterproofing inspection will be consolidated with the regular foundation inspection.
An energy code certification will be required, which allows elimination of the insulation inspection. Also eliminated was the roof inspection, which the city’s documents indicate is not a standard inspection for other municipalities in the region.
Contractors will be required to certify plumbing, roofing and energy conservation aspects comply with the most recent state regulations, and violations will be subject to fines, according to the new ordinance.
Councilman John Hipskind said he had spoken to contractors about the prospect of dealing with state inspectors, and said they gave him positive feedback.
“I didn’t think that would be the case, to be honest,” Hipskind said.
Councilmen Peggy Bellm and Rick Frey agreed.
“I am reluctant to rely on the state for anything,” Bellm said. “I’m a big believer in trying to do things in-house.”
Hipskind also said he was hesitant to eliminate a job for a Highland resident by cutting the plumbing inspections and handing them to the state. However, the changes are only taking place for single-family housing, so the local inspectors would still be on duty for commercial and multi-family building projects.
Speraneo told the council she believes this is the best solution for Highland to move forward.
“I understand the hesitancy with the state,” she said, but assured them the contractors will be dealing directly with two individuals, not going through channels in Springfield.
The council vote was 3-1 in favor, with Bellm as the sole no vote.