Sunday, February 1, 2015

Watch for Creeping Codes

Regardless of manufactured global warming (as evidenced by Club of Rome's documents, "Club of Rome and the Origins of Global Warming", January 26, 2015) many people are acting responsibly. Without government mandating the rules, many are seeking alternate and renewable energy sources, ways to reduce waste, grow their own food, and care for and about our planet and all its inhabitants. It seems a number of innovative, motivated human beings are taking the leap by becoming aware and finding ways to be as self-sustaining as possible, helping others in their communities, while getting out of the debt and death cycle connected with a lifestyle built around consumerism. However, most are not aware of the increasing spread to change codes at the local levels of government which are Agenda 21 extensions with the ultimate goal to prohibit people from being independent, responsible and self-sustaining.

According to Nick Rosen, author of Off The Grid , Inside the Movement for more Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America approximately 750,000 are living off the grid in homes not using public utility services, but opting instead for alternate sources, such as renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.).

Off the grid homes are as variable as people; whether building new, living smaller, or changing their existing homes.
Some retired folks and families opt for a partially off-grid lifestyle unencumbered by unnecessary possessions and increasing, unaffordable taxes associated with home ownership by living in RVs, fifth wheel accommodations (or on boats, and houseboats) equipped with solar panels and traveling with the sun as snowbirds. Living off the grid, or in an alternate lifestyle (i.e. not following the majority) isn't tantamount to living in unsanitary nor unsafe conditions. But given the news, it appears some local authorities are treating people as if they're behaving illegally.

In Arlington,Texas a police SWAT team raided an organic farm (The Garden of Eden) in August 2013, handcuffed the residents, and seized 17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants, native grasses, and sunflowers; and spent 10 hours looking for marijuana plants that didn't exist. The owners were cited for code violations which included the grass was too tall, bushes were growing too close to the street, firewood was improperly stacked, and a couch and piano were in the yard.

Robin Speronis of Cape Coral, Florida was evicted (video also in this source) from her home after a television crew aired a news clip showing how she was living in her home without using public utilities.

And people in the rural outskirts of LA County, California are being harassed, jailed, and forced to destroy their homes after being targeted by "Nuisance Abatement Teams" which target zoning and code violations (Battle for the California Desert: Why is the Government Driving Folks Off Their Land?) .
The actions by law enforcement and local governments across the nation appear to be linked with "International Codes" by the International Code Council (ICC). And some of these international codes have appeared in Maine.

In Brunswick, the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC) is utilized (as adopted by the State of Maine) and effective as of December 1, 2010. It appears to have ICLEI all over it, so to speak ("Smells Like Agenda 21 in Brunswick", January 13, 2015) because MUBEC consists of:
  • 2009 International Building Code
  • 2009 International Existing Building Code
  • 2009 International Residential Code
  • 2009 International Energy Conservation Code
ICC is a 50,000 member, global organization of "People Helping People Build a Safer World". Formed in 1994, ICC produces a single coordinated set of building codes throughout the nation which, thus far, consists of:
  • International Building Code
  • International Fire Code
  • International Plumbing Code
  • International Mechanical Code
  • International Fuel Gas Code
  • International Energy Conservation Code
  • ICC Performance Code
  • International Wildlife Urban Interface Code
  • International Existing Building Code
  • International Property Maintenance Code
  • International Private Sewage Disposal Code
  • International Zoning Code
  • International Green Construction Code
Note there's nothing "local" in the decision-making process and codes here. As per the list above from the Town of Brunswick's website, not all of the International Codes have yet been adopted; so this is a warning because other towns in Maine have adopted additional International Codes including the International Property Maintenance Code: Albee, Bangor, Belfast, Biddeford, Boothbay Harbor, Lewiston, Newport, North Berwick, Saco (ICC website). Noticeably, the Town of Belfast's website doesn't yet list the codes it utilizes.

It's this writer's understanding from reading the International Property Maintenance Codes (a new edition of the code is promulgated every three years ) that people should be alarmed when reading it, hope their towns haven't adopted it, and if so, reverse the decisions because here's an example of what's in it:
  • "...available for adoption and use by jurisdictions internationally..."
  • " a model code that regulates minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings"
  • " the interests of the social and economic welfare of the community..."
  • no owner or occupant can remove or disconnect any facility, equipment or utility required
  • codes enforcement official(s), CEO, have authority to make inspections and has the right to enter premises provided he shows credentials to the occupant; and if entry is refused he can get law enforcement officials to assist him
  • violations become a criminal misdemeanor or civil infraction as determined by the municipality, and violation is deemed "strict liability offense" meaning a prosecutor is not required to prove criminal intent; property owner pays all costs associated with violations and prosecution and can be jailed; neither the codes officer(s) nor subordinate(s) are liable for any costs associated in pursuance of codes
  • noncompliance can be charged against the real estate, and a lien can be placed on the property
  • each day of noncompliance constitutes a separate offense
  • CEO can restrain, correct, abate violations (including ordering repairs), prevent illegal occupancy and/or stop the conduct of business, utilize the building or premises, has authority to shut off all utilities, and have the owner pay all costs of repairs (appeals go through the municipality's appeals board - not the court)
  • CEO can order premises demolished; owner receives any money leftover from salvageable materials only after the demolishing contractor's fees are paid)
  • preventing erosion is the owner's responsibility, no matter the source
  • all premises and exterior property shall be maintained free of weed or plant growth in excess of ______ (fill in the blank for number of inches in height allowed)
  • tree branches and/or yard trimmings are considered rubbish and not allowed on the premises
  • no peeling, flaking or chipped paint allowed; both interior and exterior
  • no rust, nor rust stains are allowed
  • no inoperative or unlicensed vehicle allowed on the property
  • no major work on vehicles is allowed on the premises; must be performed inside an "approved" building
  • no painting of vehicles allowed unless inside an "approved" building
  • pools, hot tubs, and spas with more than 24" water must be completely surrounded by a 48" fence (exception is for hot tubs and spas with approved safety cover); so this includes, for example, larger inflatable kiddie pools commonly seen at WalMart, etc.
  • during _____to _____(fill in the dates) every door, window, and other outside opening must be supplied with tight-fitting screens of 16 mesh/inch
  • locks are required on all entrances to dwelling area and sleeping units (aka bedrooms)
  • sleeping is not allowed in kitchens and non-habitable spaces
  • all interior surfaces, including windows, doors are to be clean and sanitary; no peeling, chipping, flaking, abraded paint is allowed; no cracked, loose plaster or other defective surface conditions are allowed and shall be corrected
  • CEO mandates how many people are allowed to live in the home
  • minimum room widths, minimum ceiling heights
  • minimum 65-68 degrees F shall be maintained (65 degrees F in areas where the average monthly temperature is 30 degrees F)
  • heat shall be supplied from ______to _______ [every owner and operator leasing "to furnish heat"; approved heat source(s)]
Not only should people pay heed to these various International Property Codes, but look at the other agencies and be aware of their new regulations. An example is the EPA banning 80% of current woodstoves.

The process of gradualism is effective, and sneaking up on us; as a whole we're not paying enough attention. We won't be telling our grandchildren how we used to walk five miles in the snow to get to school. Instead, if we're still around, we'll be reminiscing about so much more we've lost. Time to wake up.

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