Owners of the Beached Whale, an oceanfront restaurant in Fort Myers, Florida, thought they had the go-ahead to add a deck that would let them serve food and alcohol in an outdoor setting. But that was before plan review. When building officials realized that the addition would raise the building's occupancy load above 100 people, they set a new requirement: a fire suppression system. That was a game-changer for the restaurant, reports the Fort Myers Beach Observer ("Building codes slow business expansions," by Bob Petcher.
Greg Stamper, a consultant for the restaurant, said: ""If we want to expand or add on, we have to come up to 100 percent compliance. I don't know what the bill will be on a sprinkler system for a place like this. I'm guessing $40,000 to $50,000. This changes the idea of what we want to happen." Surprise didn't make the pill easier to swallow, said Stamper: ""You would think that when we went through the process of getting approved, they would have told us what was needed. If we knew about this ahead of time, life would have been a lot easier."
But town safety official Ken Miller said that "the full permit and reviewal process is not available to businesses up front before they apply for a development order," the paper reports. "The problem is that we can't review something if we don't have concrete documents to review at the time," Miller said. "Generally, consultants should be aware of the code, especially since it it the responsibility of their architects or engineers to keep up with continuing education. They should do their research to make sure that they are signing according to the code."