Maitland looks into stopping wood-frame construction

A tower project rises across the street from City Hall in Maitland, where the City Council is looking into stopping wood construction.

A tower project rises across the street from City Hall in Maitland, where the City Council is looking into stopping wood construction.

Sarah Wilson

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The city of Maitland is working on hammering out a way to prohibit wood-frame construction for new buildings, and looking for cities statewide to get on board to make it happen.

The Maitland City Council got behind the idea after the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission started researching it last fall. Last month the Commission requested that the City Council have the city’s lobbyist work to gain support across the state for the Florida Legislature to change Florida building code to allow cities to have more control over building materials used in its borders. The Commission’s proposal applied to all construction except detached single-family homes.

“It’s all about quality,” Planning & Zoning Commission member Barry Kalmanson told the City Council at its Jan. 23 meeting. “If you want a quality community you have to build it right … Not Styrofoam, not wood-frame construction. It doesn’t work.”

Kalmanson said building multi-family units out of concrete or steel would make them more sustainable for the long term. Many of the 1,300 new apartments rising from the ground in Maitland are wood-framed, and Kalmanson said he’s concerned over how they will age.

“They’ll look beautiful the day they’re built,” he said. “But 10 or 20 or 30 years later, that’s the problem.”

Kalmanson cited a similar wood-frame construction prohibition passed last August in Sandy Springs, Ga.

According to an Aug. 23 article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Supporters of the change (in Sandy Springs) cited safety issues, as well as matters of quality, durability and longevity of buildings in turning to steel and masonry. But the American Wood Council and Georgia Forestry Association objected, saying wood construction was more sustainable and that adoption of the ordinance could hurt the industry.”

But in that case, the local government was allowed to make the decision about building materials without state approval.

In Maitland, the City Council agreed to direct Maitland lobbyist Louis Rotundo to discuss the wood-frame issue with the Florida League of Cities to see if it could be added to a future priorities list.

“We can not do this alone,” Kalmanson said.

Councilman Mike Thomas said getting the support needed to get the issue in front of the legislature would be a long shot, but worth a try.

“It doesn’t hurt … and if somehow they move a mountain up there, then we can address the issue,” Thomas said.

Councilwomen Bev Reponen and Joy Goff-Marcil said they also supported the idea as forward thinking for the future of the city.

“I really love the idea… it's always fun to fight an army and see if you can win,” Reponen said.

“I think this is worth it to help our city.”