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Vinyl Siding Concerns Block Knightdale Apartment Project

Posted December 27, 2007
Updated December 28, 2007

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— A fire that destroyed dozens of Raleigh townhouses in February has become the crux of a development debate in Knightdale.

Town officials have stopped Blue Ridge Co., a High Point-based developer, from building nearly 300 apartments because the  company planned on using vinyl siding on the project.

The Town Council voted Dec. 19 to amend its building codes to ban vinyl siding in multi-family housing. The move was based on findings made by investigators after the Pine Knoll Townes fire in Raleigh.

A wind-whipped fire raced through the townhouse complex off Capital Boulevard on Feb. 22, damaging or destroying 38 units. Investigators blamed discarded smoking materials for sparking the fire, but they said combustible pine straw next to the buildings, vinyl siding and soffit material that allowed the flames to get into attics and onto roofs contributed to the fire's rapid spread.

Raleigh approved tighter building codes requiring noncombustible materials, and Rolesville commissioners are considering following suit after a fire destroyed two houses in the town this summer.

Knightdale Fire Chief Tim Guffey convinced town commissioners to vote for the vinyl siding ban on apartment and townhouse buildings.

"It just rang a bell that the fire spread so quickly up the side of the wall and made its way into the attics of those townhomes," Guffey said.

The move halted Blue Ridge Co.'s plans for the Berkshire Park apartment complex, which would use vinyl siding that the developer thought had been approved.

David Niblock, an attorney for the developer, called the company's vinyl siding "very safe." He said he understands Knightdale's concerns, but added that it's unfair for the town to impose new restrictions part way through the process.

Mayor Russell Killen agreed with the vinyl ban, calling it "the right thing to do" to protect local residents.

"If we would have known about this in the spring, we would have told them then. But this is something that came up over the summer and as a result of the Pine Knolls fire," Killen said. "It's going to be hard-pressed for us to go with a developer and their desire, understandably, not to spend any more money than they have to versus our fire chief, who's saying we can achieve significant protection by making this one change."

Blue Ridge Co. can proceed with the apartment complex if it uses a noncombustible siding material, but Niblock said the company hasn't decided if it will move forward or abandon the project.


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  • djofraleigh Dec 28, 2007

    Changing rules in mid-stream...it could have been for masonry firebreaks between every apartment, or for sprinklers. That doesn't seem fair to do to a person with a big investment.

    Excluding the 1500 sq ft houses on 1/4 acre lots, 10 to 20 feet apart...where is the logic in that?

    The city allowing the building 300 more units when there is a drought causing doubt as to more than 30 days of water left already...where is the logic in that?

    Taking prime farm land, scraping off the topsoil (selling most of it) and putting up houses...where is the logic in that?

    Unplanned, uncontrolled growth...where is the logic in that?

  • UNC81 Dec 28, 2007

    Good for them, we don't need any more "affordable" housing in Knightdale. Of course, it's a good decision on the safety side as well...

  • Outlaw Subdivision 4-wheelers Dec 28, 2007

    Of course most TH's will have less than 2000 SF because they are joined.

  • Outlaw Subdivision 4-wheelers Dec 28, 2007

    The numbers in case anyone is interested: ctsy of gardenandhearth.com

    "Vinyl siding costs about $2 to $5 per square foot."

    "Fiber cement siding is fire resistant and maintenance free as well. It is more expensive than vinyl siding but less expensive than masonry siding, at about $4 to $7 per square foot"

    So assuming a $125,000 TH had about 2000 Sqaure feet of siding and switched from Vinyl to Hardi it would raise the price about $4000 or 3.2%

    Unless my math is wrong.

  • vbuchanan1969 Dec 28, 2007

    Come on LoneWolf, can we ban some more stuff? Maybe become a more communistic country in the process???

  • RWC Dec 28, 2007

    I bet insurance companies can affect change by charging rates purely on risk. Do you think they would charge more for vinyl and wood versus concret masonry/brick/concrete planking?

  • LoneWolf72 Dec 28, 2007

    The root cause of that fire was not vinyl siding(why not ban smoking, which was the cause, in the units all toegether)...and why stop at townhomes or apartments, if vinyl siding is so dangerous, ban it on all new homes...

  • -info- Dec 28, 2007

    use tin or concrete blocks, those houses are still standing!

  • oceanchild71 Dec 27, 2007

    Yes, costs do get passed on. However, there comes a point of diminishing returns when it is not worth going through with the project because you risk not breaking even, let alone making a profit.

    For those of you badmouthing developers, do you work for free? Don't you work for a "profit?" If your pay at work is not covering your expenses, you look for a different job, right? Not much difference.

    Should they be held to the minimum community standards for safety? Yes. But when the rules keep getting changed, then that is when developers start walking away from projects.

  • A1 Go Canes Dec 27, 2007

    "Profits are what allow the company to pay its employees and start bankrolling the next projext, which in turn provides jobs for people." oceanchild71

    Do you think for a second that the developer would just take the hit on the extra cost of doing the siding in something like Hardi-Panel? No! That cost would be passed on. Developers bank roll a project to make money...MOST don't care about how it gets done or if the end product is good...they just want that bottom line to make them a little richer. It is fine to make a profit, but when you compromise safety or quality that is where a line should be drawn.