Local News

Vinyl Siding Concerns Block Knightdale Apartment Project

Posted December 27, 2007 5:13 p.m. EST
Updated December 28, 2007 10:26 a.m. EST

— 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.