News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Sixth Avenue sign shows cooperation in building city

A local discussion group last week talked about why there is not more residential construction in Decatur. The group pointed at the Building Department as being unfriendly to builders.

That's a line we've heard for two decades or more and a perceived problem no one challenges head-on or resolves.

The fallback position of people who complain about the department and its director Jimmy Brothers is that builders and the people for whom they build are afraid to complain. They fear retaliation.

Mr. Brothers counters that many of the complaints come from people who don't want to follow code and who want to cut corners. But that's not always the case, critics say. Apparently some builders get strung out for long periods of times while waiting for an inspection and the department forces them to make costly changes that have nothing to do with the quality, safety or appearance of their work.

The Daily has attempted many times to get builders to talk on the record about their specific gripes with the Building Department. Each attempt is met with silence or that they are afraid.

But look no further than Sixth Avenue Southeast to see an incident where the city cooperated with the owner of the new Subway sandwich shop. The owner mistakenly erected his sign 2 feet too close to the property line. Moving the sign would have cost $10,000.

Mr. Brothers and the Board of Zoning Adjustment this week decided to waive the 30-foot setback. That's being business friendly.

Someone in the discussion group suggested that the city and real estate brokers recruit new builders to erect the houses they say Decatur desperately needs. But if builders can't make it now because of what they say is an unfriendly business climate, what do they have to lose if they go public with their complaints?

The Building Department's job is to protect the public from shoddy work, done either to cut costs or from a lack of knowledge. None of us needs to lose sight of that, but the city should resolve this long-standing complaint.

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