Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Wood shingle debate not a hot priority

July 31, 2004


Wood shingles may be a fire concern, officials say, but deciding their future on Lawrence rooftops shouldn't be a burning issue.

In a memorandum to the Lawrence City Commission, two city administrators suggested the issue be deliberated slowly -- waiting, perhaps, until the city of Shawnee resolves litigation over its own attempts to prohibit neighborhood associations from requiring the shingles on houses there.

"Because of this Kansas litigation, staff can not recommend the enactment of an ordinance similar to that of the city of Shawnee until the case is resolved," Assistant City Manager Dave Corliss and Neighborhood Resources Director Victor Torres wrote in the memorandum.

Commissioners, who are scheduled to consider the matter Tuesday, indicated they were likely to take the advice to go slow in making their decision.

"I'm not sure how great an idea wood shake shingles are," Commissioner Boog Highberger said Friday. "But based on the information I have now, I'm not sure I want to move to prohibit them."

The issue was raised last spring by west Lawrence resident Stewart Nowlin, who asked commissioners to invalidate a restrictive covenant in his neighborhood that forces him and surrounding property owners to use only wood shingles on the roofs of their homes.

Nowlin, who was unavailable for comment Friday, said in May the shingles were a fire hazard.

"It endangers the safety of the family and of the neighbors," he said at the time.

A memorandum posted on City Hall's Web site showed that the Kansas State Fire Marshall's Office determined that two-thirds of all roof fires between 2000 and 2003 involved wood roofs.

Developers and builders have expressed skepticism of city efforts, saying the covenants help property owners know in advance what their neighborhood will look like.

If commissioners decide to take action, Corliss and Torres said, they shouldn't restrict their decision to neighborhood covenants.

"There is also a legal and policy question of why a prohibition against restrictive covenants requiring wood materials is in the public interest but a complete ban on the wood roof materials is not in the public interest," the pair wrote. "If the policy basis is fire safety, is the policy goal achieved with only a prohibition on restrictive covenants?"

They urged the commission to send the matter to a pair of city advisory committees.

"That's where I'm at," Highberger said. "I would like to have their review of the proposal."

The commission meets at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.