City regulations cut into homeowners’ options

 

Photo credit: Kevin Delaney

My husband and I had windows replaced in our basement the other day – all but two windows. Why leave them out? Because, according to the window-replacement company, if you replace basement windows – no matter the age of the home – Sandy city code requires egress windows in every bedroom. That means the window openings have to be cut out to a much larger size, among other things.

Cutting out egress windows through all that concrete will be so expensive that we are deferring it to another year. Does this improve fire safety? In fact, the new windows can be lifted out completely, and they are a lot easier for our children to escape through than the two remaining old windows with those sadistic, finger-killing latches.

I have no objection to egress windows per se – they’re a great idea, and they are much better for firefighter access – and I’ll feel safer when we are able to have them installed. But I do object to being forced by the government to install them if we want to improve the house by upgrading the windows. Our guest room in the basement does not get a lot of use, but because it has a closet and therefore is classified as a bedroom, the city says we must install an egress window or else we have to keep the old window.

We ran into a similar irritation upon installing a fence around our front yard. Because we live on one of Sandy’s busiest roads, we wanted to put up a six-foot fence to screen out the traffic a bit and improve our privacy, but we ran into city regulations there, too, and ended up with a four-foot fence.

It’s reasonable for a city to make rules to encourage safety in its neighborhoods. But at what point do these ordinances cross the line to become overbearing – unreasonably stepping on the toes of homeowners?