Council defers changes to manual to see if they are correct

Centre Welling­ton council heard two distinct and differing views about chan­g­ing the facility accessibility development model that it uses.
That manual is used by Wellington County and its seven municipalities, as well as the City of Guelph, and Homewood, in Guelph.
Building Inspector Bob Foster said in his report he was recommending two changes to the wording of the manual. He said the changes would “treat the document with existing buildings as the township does the Building Code,” and he sug­gested providing potential ar­chitects doing work for the township with notice of the manual and its requirements.
Foster stated in his report, “It should be noted that Section 35 of the Building Code Act precludes a municipality from pas­sing bylaws that deal with the same subject matter as the Ontario Building Code in a different manner. As such, the township cannot pass a bylaw requiring owners of other pub­licly or privately owned build­ings to conform to the Facility Accessibility Design Manual.
“In 2006, accessibility aud­its of 22 of our municipally owned and operated facilities were completed by the building department staff based upon the provisions of the design manual. These buildings were reviewed on the basis of the checklist developed for this purpose.”
Foster said that, in general, there were several observations to make about township build­ings:
– township buildings gen­eral­ly do not comply with the proposed design manual;
– although newer buildings comply with the current re­quire­ments of the Ontario Building Code, older buildings generally do not;
– during the design and construction of new buildings, compliance with the design man­ual can be readily achiev­ed, although at an increase in construction cost;
– compliance with the de­sign manual in the event of the alteration, renovation, or the con­struction of additions to existing buildings can be very difficult, or in certain circum­stances, may be infeasible; and
– the township voluntarily complied with the design man­ual during the design and re­cent construction of the admin­is­trative addition to the Fergus firehall.
But while Foster recom­mended making changes in the document, councillor Walt Visser is leery about such an approach.
He explained there are a number of municipal and pri­vate groups that have approved the manual, and, “It’s not up to Centre Wellington to change – but it can be changed by all.”
He said in some ways the manual is incomplete, and add­ed that the township cannot demand work that is not in the Building Code.
He said the local manual may have a standard that is set much higher than the pro­vincial Building Code, but the local groups “can do more than the province. The manual ap­plies only to municipal build­ings.”
Visser suggested deferring Foster’s report until council clari­fies the possibility of chan­ging the manual.
He said of making only township changes, “That’s not our place. I can’t support it.”
Visser added that in 18 months or so, the province will like change the Building Code drastically to require more strin­gent standards, such as those already being set by municipalities such as locally, London, and Ottawa.
“I suggest we hold off,” Visser said. He sits on the county ac­cessibility committee, and help­ed to write the accessibility manual used across Wellington County.
Councillor Fred Morris ask­ed Foster if the township can change the manual.
Foster said he had been asked to adopt it for new build­ings and renovations, and, “I believe we can – unlike the Building Code. Nothing pre­vents the municipality from adopting standards for our use.”
Visser argued, though, “It’s not our design manual. If we go our separate ways [in Centre Wellington] we’ll have eight accessibility manuals,” because eventually other municipalities would make their own changes.
The county had asked the lower tier municipalities if they wished to use a single accessi­bility manual for construction projects, so builders will be dealing with the same rules everywhere.
“If we make changes, sug­gest them to the authors,” said Visser. That would eventually mean all the municipalities in­volved would have to approve suggestions.
Morris said he was hearing two different arguments, and said he wanted to defer the issue until council can deter­mine what is correct.
Visser said he would take the issue to the accessibility com­mittee for clarification.