Court: St. Paul can't override state building code

  • Updated: July 24, 2012 - 7:13 PM

The city's stricter "policy" toward egress windows improperly conflicts with law, the judges said. An appeal is being considered.

The state Court of Appeals rejected St. Paul's attempt to adopt a policy on egress windows that was stricter than state law, saying city policy cannot conflict with state code.

"A city may not circumvent the pre-emption provisions of the state building code by indirectly adopting its own building regulation through a 'policy' rather than an ordinance or formal enactment," a three-judge panel of the court ruled in a 16-page opinion that was published Monday.

State law already forbids cities from adopting ordinances in conflict with state law. The ruling makes clear that policies may not, as well.

City Attorney Sara Grewing said her office will meet with officials from the Fire Department and the city's Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) on Wednesday to decide whether to ask the state Supreme Court to hear the city's appeal. The court wouldn't have to take the case.

In April 2009, DSI sent city property owners an egress window policy that said at least one window in each bedroom must have an opening of 20 inches wide, 24 inches high and at least 5 square feet of clear glazed area. The policy wasn't subject to City Council discussion or approval.

The Builders Association of Minnesota sued over the policy, but the Ramsey County District Court ruled in favor of the city before trial. The Appeals Court reversed that decision.

A 2006 fire that killed a man in a basement apartment led to increased fire inspections of rental properties and eventually to the outcry over uneven and expensive enforcement.

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