Cape builders group reaches out for Island members

Cape builders group reaches out for Island members

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The construction trades account for approximately 13 percent of Island jobs, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Despite that sizeable stake in the local economy, and ever-evolving regulatory changes and licensing requirements, Island builders have no organization solely devoted to representing their interests.

The Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod (HB&RACC), a Cape-based nonprofit organization with 235 member companies, hopes to fill that vacuum by establishing a presence on the Vineyard.

On Friday, HB&RACC will sponsor what it describes as an informal networking and informational event from 4 to 6 pm at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown for anyone involved with residential construction.

HB&RACC executive director Chris Duren told the Times that the group wants to reach out to the Vineyard. She said that advocacy is an important part of what her organization does.

“There is strength in numbers,” Ms. Duren said. “There is so much over-regulation in the construction industry. We want to see if we can provide advocacy, networking, marketing, and educational services to the Vineyard building community. We want to hear what their needs and concerns are.”

HB&RACC is a member of the Home Builders Association of Massachusetts (HBAMA) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which represent the building industry on the state and national levels. Ms. Duren said her group is working locally to limit new building code sprinkler system regulations for private residences, and has been a critical part of a drive to prevent a building moratorium on the Cape.

The association wants to know what regulatory and legislative issues are important to the construction business on Martha’s Vineyard, Ms. Duren said. She added that they are committed to keeping people in the construction industry informed about the latest issues and that they will continue their work in supporting safe, economical building practices.

On Friday, HB&RACC will provide up-to-date information about their building trades advocacy work and their Massachusetts construction supervisor license continuing education program. HB&RACC provides courses needed to earn, maintain, and renew the construction supervisor license.

John Abrams, president of the South Mountain Company in West Tisbury, said South Mountain recently joined the Cape group primarily because of their educational programs. He said he is interested in hearing what they have to say about their other initiatives.

As a whole, Island builders and those attached to the construction industry have tackled issues that affect the building trades individually, as opposed to collectively.

For example, last fall the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Island’s powerful regional permitting agency, held public hearings on a set of new checklists for developments of regional interest, including a proposal to add large houses to the list.

Of particular concern to the builders was the MVC’s proposal, later dropped, that in some circumstances, large houses might constitute a development of regional impact on the basis of “community character,” a standard they said was too subjective.

Chilmark is expected to take up new building codes at annual town meeting this spring that would cap house size under some circumstances.

The last time Island builders organized was more than 13 years ago. The spur was a series of building caps enacted in four of the six Island towns that left potential home owners and builders waiting in line for coveted permits.

In January 2000, a group of about 35 builders met to discuss their concerns for the future of their businesses. The group, which adopted the name of the Martha’s Vineyard Building Trades Association (MVBTA), said they wanted local town boards to leave zoning and building bylaws alone and perhaps rescind the building caps that have already been passed.

Once the caps disappeared, the organization faded back into the woodwork.

The state building code requires that construction of all one and two family dwellings of any size and all other types of buildings containing less than 35,000 cubic feet of enclosed space, must be done under the supervision of a person licensed as a construction supervisor by the State Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS), a division of the Massachusetts Department of Safety.

In May 2010, the BBRS enacted continuing education requirements for maintaining a construction supervisor’s license, according to their website at www.mass.gov.

For more information on the HB&RACC go to www.capecodbuilders.org or contact Christine Duren, chris@capecodbuilders.org, 508-398-3900.

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