Weekly Update: May 15, 2014

Urgent Action Item: 4″ Topsoil Rule

hbaiowa-soil-1If you have any involvement in home building, you need to be aware of this. Back in 2012, the DNR adopted a rule requiring developers and builders who hold a required stormwater “General Permit No. 2” to put 4 inches of topsoil back on a finished construction site. The DNR wanted runoff reduction since topsoil sponges up water that runs swiftly off hard clay.
The rule makes development costs prohibitive, so several of your fellow members approached Governor Branstad and he signed the Governor’s Executive Order 80. A “stakeholder” group was formed in order for the DNR to revisit it. The stakeholder group includes our own Creighton Cox, executive director of the Greater Des Moines HBA; Hubbell Realty’s Joe Pietruszynski; Chip Classon of Jerry’s Homes; Mark Watkins, vice president of McAnich Corp., a Des Moines earthmoving contractor; Lucy Hershberger of Forever Green Nursery in Coralville; Pat Sauer of the Iowa Stormwater Education Program; and Chad Ingels, a member of the state Environmental Protection Commission appointed to that panel by Branstad.
The goal of the group is to come up with a recommendation to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission regarding the rule terminology. As part of this initiative, DNR is receiving public comments regarding the 4″ requirement until May 29th. To date, there have been dozens of comments saying that the 4″ requirement should stay in place with virtually no comments saying that it needs to be changed to simply match the federal language. We would like to see the 4″ language struck from the rule and replaced with language taken directly from the federal rule.
We are asking that as many of our members email comments IN YOUR OWN WORDS as soon as possible, since the meeting is May 29. Even a one paragraph comment would be incredibly helpful. While you should each decide what to put in your comments, here are a few insights:

  • Developers and builders are already heavily regulated when it comes to storm water runoff requirements. These are expensive and time consuming requirements that have been followed for years with great success, not just in Iowa but around the country.
  • The federal rule requires that a builder or developer “unless infeasible, preserve topsoil.” There appears to be a misconception that builders/developers routinely strip the site of topsoil and then sell it or ship it off to other sites. This simply isn’t true. It is our understanding that, unless the soil cannot physically remain on the site (such as when doing building development in a downtown), topsoil is retained within the plat and used where it will serve the best purpose for the development.
  • The federal rule does not, in any way, address the issue of how many inches of topsoil is required at any particular location. It simply says “unless infeasible, preserve topsoil.” A requirement that compels the builder/developer to maintain a certain number of inches at a particular location goes well beyond the federal requirement.
  • The 4″ requirement is extremely difficult and costly to satisfy. When the 4″ requirement was implemented last year, we estimated that the additional cost of compliance would be about $300 – $400 per lot. After a year of implementation, we have discovered that the actual cost of the requirement is more than 10 times that original estimate – and in some places as high as $5,000 per lot. Since all of the topsoil is left on site, the additional cost of dictating exactly where the topsoil gets placed is an unnecessary impediment to affordable housing. This is especially true at a time that the industry is trying to get back on its feet.

We highly encourage you to write to Adam Schnieders [DNR] Adam.Schnieders@dnr.iowa.gov and tell the DNR, in your own words, why the 4″ requirement should not be maintained and why the insertion of the federal language is a reasonable alternative that satisfies all of the requirements imposed by the law while protecting the environment at a cost that allows affordable housing. If you would like to attend the meeting in person (the best method!), please let Jay Iverson know.

2012 International Energy Conservation Code – Residential Construction

iecc-2012June 1 is rapidly approaching – the date when all new houses in Iowa must meet the minimum requirements of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (2012 IECC).  Click here for a copy of State of Iowa Chapter 303, Rule 661-303.2(103A).  For a nice overview of what it means to you and your customers, click here.


The Cedar Rapids HBA and the Iowa City HBA held a joint membership meeting together last week, the first time in history (or anytime in recent memory). It was an excellent networking event, held in Solon at Lake Macbride Golf Club. Over 100 members gathered for the event.

Weekly Update: May 8, 2014

2014 HBAI Legislative Affairs Committee Review

Here are some interesting statistics from this past legislative session, provided by Legislative Chairman Glenn Siders (Iowa City).

  • The Session opened January 13, 2014. The House adjourned 109 days later on May 1. The Senate adjourned Friday 110 days later on May 2.
  • The Committee shared a total of 15 votes: Ames 1; Cedar Rapids 2; Des Moines 3; Dubuque 1; Fort Dodge 1; Iowa City 2; Northeast 1; Northwest 1; Quad Cities 2; and Sioux City 1.
  • The Committee had 11 calls, averaging 36 minutes in length, and we averaged 12.5 members.
  • The Committee reviewed 94 bills that included 10 carried over from the 2013 Session. It also included bills that changed from a study bill to a numbered bill.
  • The Committee took positions on 18 bills, supporting 11 and opposing 7. The average vote cast per position was 8.2 and all votes were unanimous.

It was a relatively quiet year as far as legislation directly impacting the building/development industry. Some of the highlights included:

  • Radon legislation was reduced to schools only. The residential component was removed.
  • Window Fall Protection legislation was re-orchestrated and good future alliances were formed.
  • Mechanics Lien legislation was thwarted.


Ames HBA Membership Meeting


hba-paul-rhodes    Iowa State Football Coach Paul Rhoads spoke at last week’s Ames HBA membership meeting.  He’s super optimistic about the prospects for the upcoming season, with some amazing early talent.  They have three quarterback choices who will all be trying super hard to start.  Coach Rhoads said that the Big 12 easily has more depth than any other conferences.  Depth that is equally spread over many schools, which is going to make it an awesome season.  He’s running a program that will not tolerate individuals who break the rules and has released a few players that had NFL sized talent, just because their ethical conduct was unbecoming.  Good stuff and a great talk.

The Perils of Patent Trolls

Our HBAI Legislative Committee discussed the possibility of building bills based on patent trolling. At that time it was decided to take a wait and see approach – quite a few states passed legislation to safeguard our members from this growing trend.

NAHB Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Jim Rizzo, is attending the Spring Policy Conference of the Democratic Attorneys General Association in Seattle this week to represent the home building industry in a panel discussion examining the scourge of patent trolls.

Joining Jim on the panel will be representatives of other business sectors that have been targeted by patent trolling including retailing, financial services and the software industry.

NAHB was invited to participate in the forum shortly after a situation affecting home builders came to light in the Pacific Northwest. Builders there received letters charging that they were – or may be in the future — infringing on a construction-related moisture removal patent. The letters demanded that the builders enter a licensing agreement and pay the patent owner a fee per home to use their patented “process” or face legal action.

We will continue to monitor this and it may be something that we need to clean up in the next session. Google patent trolling and you’ll see exactly how this works. Crazy stuff.

HousingIowa Awards – Get Your Nominations In

The 2014 HousingIowa Conference will feature the 7th annual awards to honor awesome and outstanding leadership throughout all facets of Iowa’s housing industry.

The HousingIowa Awards recognize programs or projects based on their contributions to advancing the affordable housing industry in Iowa in three categories:

  • Multifamily
  • Single-Family
  • Special Needs Housing Development

Eligible projects may represent new construction, rehabilitation or a new housing program/initiative. Please consider nominating an awesome program or project, by returning this nomination form and supporting materials to the Iowa Finance Authority no later than Thursday, July 3, 2014. Nominations for an individual project may only be received in one category.


May is National Home Remodeling Month

In May, during National Home Remodeling Month, this is your chance to reach out to your local media and consumers with a focus on the benefits of hiring a professional remodeler.  Whether it’s tips for why, when and how to choose a professional remodeler, May is the time to celebrate the remodeling industry.

The campaign includes sample social media posts, web banners, press releases, fact sheets and other consumer materials. Members and local remodelers councils can download government proclamations, articles and op-eds, fact sheets and a how-to kit for implementing the campaign. These materials are easily customizable and can be used however you wish. Or follow our simple step-by-step guide to lead you through the campaign.  Click here for the entire package.