You probably won’t believe this, but the township did not have a building code. In fact, a lot of townships in Pennsylvania didn’t have one, so in 2004 the state forced all municipalities to adopt one. The problem is, when you’re dealing with an historic house, there isn’t much that is up to code – no insulation, the stairs are all wrong, the electric outlets are too low, etc. To make matters worse, our B&B fell under “commercial” regulations, so the doors had to swing out, we needed an enclosed stair tower, etc. In the past, you submitted a “variance request” (basically a list of everything that doesn’t meet code) to the state Labor & Industry board and they generally said, “Small B&B in an historic building, do whatever you want.” (And if they didn’t say that, then the State Preservation Office beat them up until they said that.)
With the new law, however, we no longer deal with L&I but with the local township, so today, the architect called them to ask about building code variances and was told two things: First, we hadn’t applied for our zoning permit yet, so they couldn’t talk about building codes; and second, they weren’t giving variances.
I called the township and was essentially told that the zoning commission had just given me permission to apply for a zoning permit! (Funny how nobody mentioned that at the zoning commission meeting…)