Adams County approves new windows to bring Midtown homes built dangerously close together up to code

Windows designed to slow spread of fire

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - Adams County has signed-off on a recommended fix for more than a dozen homes constructed in violation of the building code in the Midtown Development outside Denver.

The county mistakenly approved the new homes that were built too close together in the new development located at the intersection of 68th Avenue and Pecos Street. The Adams County Building Safety Division was unaware of the issue until December, months after some homeowners had already moved in. 

The homes violate the International Residential Code that requires sufficient spacing between homes to deter the spread of fire from building-to-building. 

Now, almost two months after the county discovered it had erroneously approved the properties, 7NEWS has learned those homes are still not up to code. Documents obtained from Adams County show at least 16 David Weekley homes will need to be corrected. Those properties are either completed or currently under construction.

7NEWS requested emails sent to and from Jim Williamette, the Adams County Chief Building Official. In an email dated Dec. 30, 2013, Williamette reached out to building code experts outside Adams County for advice regarding the fire separation issue. The email included a picture of the small distance between two homes and included measurements.

In the email, Williamette wrote, "It gives me heartburn to allow this, especially with two windows across for [from] each other that close."

The following day, Williamette received an email response asking, "If there was a fire in one of the dwellings, and the fire spread to the neighboring dwelling, would your municipality be open for a very large legal action? What if somebody died as a result of the fire that jumped to the neighboring dwelling?"

The builder, David Weekley Homes, commissioned Rondinelli Life Safety, BCER Engineering Inc. to come up with possible solutions to bring the homes up to building code. 7NEWS obtained that memo entitled, "Midtown residences (68th and Pecos) Property Setback Issue Code Study and Altenate [Alternate] Means and Methods Solution."  

The document outlines several options for a solution, including the installation of a residential sprinkler system throughout the homes. The memo states, "This solution was evaluated and although automatic sprinkler protection has significant benefits for residential construction, the different phases of homes under construction would make implementation of this solution difficult and costly."

Click to read the memo

The builder, Adams County, and the Southwest Adams County Fire Protection District signed off on a different solution. The document recommends replacing existing windows on bordering exterior walls with one-hour fire-rated glazing and frames. Adams County has agreed to consider the homes up to code after these new windows are installed.

The Area President of David Weekley Homes, Walter Watson, told 7NEWS the replacement windows have been ordered and shipment is expected in March. Watson said signed consent from homeowners is needed before any work can be done. Watson did not provide an estimated timeline for completion.