Report on Graceland buildings given

Published 8:04 am Sunday, November 25, 2012

By Lucy Parker

The Daily News

Responding to a discussion that arose during the previous Washington Parish Planning Commission meeting, the operator of two local Graceland Portable Buildings offices was on hand during the meeting Tuesday to discuss the use of the structures for residency.

Cindy Tate, who runs Graceland Portable Buildings businesses in Franklinton and Bogalusa, said she read online an account of the commission’s October meeting and learned “there were some questions whether or not our buildings met the building code.” She presented each member of the board with literature about the buildings and copies of the plans prepared by Slidell company Dammon Engineering.

Tate said she spoke with Chuck Stewart, of the parish permit office, and was told that the structures are approved for residential use, as long as applicants follow guidelines on things like plumbing and wiring for electricity. The buildings can be used for commercial but not residential use inside the city limits of Bogalusa, while they are approved for storage but not occupancy within the city limits of Franklinton, Tate said.

“We sell them for storage,” she said. “But folks do convert them and they can be converted, and Mr. Chuck confirmed that today at permit office. He said as long as they follow the other guidelines, then there wasn’t a problem with using the buildings.”

In answer to a question from Commissioner Claude Bloom, Tate said the buildings are “designed to comply with 2003, 2006 and 2009 International Building and International Residential Codes” but are not intended for use as a residence.

The information presented by Tate was confirmed by Stewart in a phone call prior to the meeting, said Sharon Lyons, secretary for the Planning Commission and Parish Council.

“There are other things they have to do if they’re going to live in them,” she said. “He said they have gotten quite a good many. As people move along and times get harder, they are going to this.”

Tate and the permit office, Lyons reported, are “very much on the same page.”

The buildings, Tate said, are offered on a rent-to-own basis with no credit check required.

Parish attorney Wayne Kuhn had also discussed the matter with Director of Public Works Leo Lucchesi before the meeting. During their phone call, Lucchesi said the permit office has a “checklist of items that they go through with these buildings to see that they are brought up to code for occupancy,” according to Kuhn.

“They’re not supposed to be used for commercial purposes,” Kuhn said. “They reason is the fire marshal has to do an inspection for commercial purposes. They do issue, and you may have seen one here in town, a temporary permit if the person is going to construct a permanent building.”

When a businessperson is issued a temporary permit, he or she has a specified amount of time to complete the permanent structure, Kuhn said. There are other factors to consider too, he said.

“You also have the issue of compliance with federal laws for handicap accessibility, etc., so those things all have to be dealt with when a person wishes to use one for commercial purposes,” he said.

Constructed in the community of Jayess, Miss., the buildings are delivered unfinished on the inside, Tate said. Before customers purchase one of the buildings, she said, she instructs them to check with the permit office to be sure they will be able to use it for the purpose they intended and lets them know about the various requirements in the process.

In other commission news, Lewis reported that the committee researching the issue of moving manufactured homes within the parish is continuing to work on its proposed amendments to Article III of the Comprehensive Development Ordinance.

Bloom was appointed chairman of a committee charged with adding language about the permitting of the Graceland buildings to the board’s proposed changes to the Comprehensive Development Ordinance. Other commissioners serving on the committee will be Chat Jones and Bradley Cooper.

Lewis also referred to the Public Works staff the issue of one or more salvage yards in the parish that reportedly may not be operating according to standards. Bloom was tasked by Lewis with revising the ordinance on salvage yards, both to expand on the definition of a recycling center and to change the numbering of the articles so the ordinance will conform with the Comprehensive Development Plan.