ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - Adams County Building Safety employees inspected and approved more than a dozen new homes in the Midtown development, even though the homes were built too close together.
Adams County first discovered the problem Dec. 27. An inspector noticed a new home that was built 4 inches too close to adjoining property. The distance resulted in a code violation.
"It's a fire issue for the separation of buildings," said Jim Williamette, the Adams County Chief Building Official. "When you get buildings too close together it's too hard to stop intrusion of the fire."
The properties are in violation of International Residential code relating to fire safety; "In the unlikely event of a fire, the closer the exterior walls are to one another, the more likely it is for fire to spread from one building to another," read a statement from Adams County.
The home should not have passed inspections or been issued Certificates of Occupancy because of the code violation, the county said. In addition, follow-up inspections found that 13 other homes were also built too closely to one another in the same Midtown development. Seven of the homes are unoccupied or still under construction, and six are already occupied by new owners.
Adams County officials completed an internal investigation Wednesday that showed six homes in the Midtown development received certificates of occupancy. Adams County claimed those documents were issued by a former building inspector, but 7NEWS obtained a Certificate of Occupancy for a Midtown home in violation of building code, dated Aug. 2013, and signed by Jim Williamette.
Following the discovery, Adams County immediately met with the builder -- David Weekley Homes -- and the Southwest Adams Fire District to mitigate the code violation.
"Although the ultimate responsibility to build to code resides with the builder, the former county building inspector was clearly in error by approving the final residential inspections without performing his due diligence," said Chief Building Official Jim Williamette. However, 7NEWS obtained a document that showed Williamette himself signed off on the faulty inspections.
Amanda Kost: "Are (the residents) aware that their home is not up to code?"
Chief Building Official Jim Williamette: "That would be up to the builder to tell them. I have not told them."
Kost: "Why would it not be up to the county to tell them that?"
Williamette: "I was meeting with the builder and I figured it's the builder's responsibility. He's the builder and supplier of the homes."
Kost: "But you serve the residents of the county."
Williamette: "I do serve the residents."
After we asked those tough questions, Adams County went door-to-door delivering a letter that informed the residents of the problem.
According to Williamette, the county has already come up with a tentative solution to bring the six properties in question into code compliance. The exterior walls of the six properties will be modified with fire-resistant windows. In addition to the already-installed fire-resistant siding, the windows will satisfy the international building code.
All parties have verbally agreed to the modifications and a signed design proposal is expected to be finalized no later than Jan. 21. The physical modifications will take place shortly thereafter -- depending upon the builder’s schedule.
"Adams County places the highest value on the safety of its citizens," said County Manager Todd Leopold. "While we acknowledge that six certificates of occupancy were issued erroneously by a former employee, at no time were the occupants of the affected homes in imminent danger. In fact, by identifying the problem when we did, we were able to catch an unfortunate oversight and prevent future homes in the community from being built too closely together. We apologize for our error, and look forward to the continued construction of the beautiful new homes that comprise the Midtown community."
David Weekley Homes, founded in 1976, is headquartered in Houston and operates in 17 cities across the United States.