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Hillsborough commissioner seeks reinspection rules after Surfside collapse

Commissioner Kimberly Overman wants Hillsborough to consider duplicating the 40-year requirement in south Florida.
Household items and debris dangle from Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building collapsed June 24, in Surfside.  (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Household items and debris dangle from Champlain Towers South Condo after the multistory building collapsed June 24, in Surfside. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP) [ DAVID SANTIAGO | AP ]
Published Jul. 12, 2021
Updated Jul. 13, 2021

Commissioner Kimberly Overman doesn’t want a repeat of the Surfside condominium collapse in Hillsborough County.

On Wednesday, she will ask the rest of the commission to begin the process of developing a building reinspection program similar to ordinances in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

“It’s the right thing to do, rather than wait for some major disaster,” said Overman. “We’ve been blessed, but why challenge that.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Overman’s specific pitch is for county staff to study “possible implementation of a recertification process to audit buildings, modeled after Broward and/or Miami-Dade counties’ 40-year building safety inspection programs.”

It comes less than three weeks after the collapse of a 12-story oceanfront condominium in Surfside that, as of mid-day Monday, had claimed 94 lives and left 22 people still missing. The condominium was in the middle of its inspection at the time of the collapse.

Miami-Dade devised its program after the 1974 collapse at a federal Drug Enforcement Agency structure in downtown Miami left seven dead and 20 injured. Broward County followed suit in 2005. It requires structural and safety inspections of buildings 40 years old and reinspections every 10 years afterward.

Under the program, government building officials notify owners of buildings meeting the age thresholds that they have 90 days to document structural and electrical inspections by an engineer or architect. Owners then have 180 days to complete required repairs.

Application is not universal. Broward’s ordinance, for instance, exempts one- and two-family residences, and government and public school buildings. Broward’s program excludes all buildings smaller than 3,500 square feet. Miami-Dade’s requirement applies to all structures measuring 2,000 square feet or larger.

Overman suggested Hillsborough follow the same 40-year time frame.

“I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel,’ she said.

City of Tampa officials also are studying the south Florida ordinances, but “right now I think we’re going to wait and see if any kind of direction comes down from the state,” said Abbye Feeley, Tampa’s development and growth management director.

Last week, the Florida Bar announced a task force to advise state leaders considering condominium-related issues in light of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building.

Overman chair of Hillsborough County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board, said the initial public focus has been on luxury high-rises, but affordable housing projects also can be multi-story buildings.

“It’s critically important if we’re going to provide affordable housing that it’s also safe housing,” she said.