City Council member Joyce Morgan proposes changes to the city’s zoning and building codes to address disputes she contends exist between some commercial property owners and their tenants.
Morgan introduced Ordinance 2018-310 May 8 with two provisions.
The first is the creation of what Morgan calls a Building Confirmation Letter, with the second section requiring the letter be part of the Certificate of Use application process with the city’s Building Inspection Division of the Planning and Development Department.
The Building Confirmation Letter would provide a potential tenant with the site’s current or last known use and detail any physical or mechanical upgrades that may be required for the new tenant’s business, as they relate to building or fire codes.
The change prevents property owners from leasing space before obtaining the letter.
According to a legislative summary of the bill, the property owner also may present a certification from a Florida-licensed architect in lieu of one from the Building Inspection Division.
Morgan, who represents the Arlington neighborhood in District 1, said she has been approached by four business owners who’ve encountered this issue.
“We kept getting business owners who were going to lease a building thinking that everything was fine only to find out that they couldn’t get a COU,” Morgan said.
“I really wanted to put something in the code that would allow an equal playing field,” she said.
The bill intends to address instances in which tenants have leased commercial space only to find that the property isn’t up to code. In those scenarios, Morgan asserts that the building owners won’t provide the upgrades or release the tenant from their lease.
The legislation does not provide a cost for obtaining the letter, other than to say a fee will be established.
Morgan said she’s received positive and negative feedback from property owners.
“Some feel it’s a burden to them, but others have said ‘thank God that you’re willing to do this’,” Morgan said. “There’s going to be a lot of friction with this bill.”
Morgan said she’s willing to sit down with concerned property owners, inviting them to the bill’s public hearing at the Land Use and Zoning Committee scheduled June 14.
She said she understands the process is already lengthy for business owners seeking a COU.
The Building Inspection Division and the fire marshal must approve Certificate of Use applications, which can cost between $89 and $112.
The Building Inspection Division is responsible for vertical construction permitting, building inspections, inspections of permitted construction and floodplain management.
The Fire Marshal’s office is housed within the Fire Prevention Division of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and oversees safety inspections on commercial properties, issues fire permits and reviews building plans.
“Let’s sit down and hash it out,” she said. “I don’t want you to be able to have this building and it not be up to code.”