Saturday, September 12, 2015

Affordable Housing Lawsuit Challenges Chicago’s Ordinance

The Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago and Hoyne Development have jointly filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago, challenging the city’s affordable housing ordinance, which requires residential developments of 10 or more units needing zoning changes, or the city’s financial assistance, to include 10% of the units built as affordable housing, or pay a fee of $100,000.00 per required affordable unit not included in the development. Next month an amendment will increase the in lieu fees up to a maximum of $225,000.00 per affordable unit not built, depending on which of three city zones includes the proposed development.

Plaintiffs assert the ordinance takes their private property for a public use without just compensation, but the city will vigorously defend the ordinance as an exercise of its proprietary authority to impose fees for requested regulatory revisions.

High Profile Architects Compete For Obama’s Presidential Library

Architecture firms from Chicago, New York, California, North Carolina, Italy and the United Kingdom are rumored to be under consideration for designing President Obama’s presidential library, to be built in Chicago’s south side Washington Park or Jackson Park, after Obama’s term of office ends in January, 2017. Chicago based architects in the running include Helmut Jahn, designer of O’Hare Field’s United Airlines terminal, and the University of Chicago’s Mansuelo Library, who sat at Obama’s head table at the president’s state dinner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011; Mark Sexton, who designed Chicago’s Spertus Institute; Carol Ross Barney, designer of new CTA stations and Chicago’s Riverwalk; Tigerman McCurry, designer of the innovative children’s scale Chicago Center for Children’s Advocacy; and Ralph Johnson of the Chicago office of Perkins + Will, designer of the Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

Former presidential library design firms from New York – Ennead Architects and Robert A. M. Stern – are in the running, along with New York’s Diller, Scofidio + Renfro; the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, designers of the U. S. Consulate building in Guangzhou, China; and Philip Freelon of North Carolina’s office of Perkins + Will. Overseas competitors include Italian architect Renzo Piano, designer of the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago and of New York’s new Whitney Museum; and London based David Adjaye, designer of the under construction National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., who sat at the President’s head table during the 2012 state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron. Announcement of the winning architect is expected early next year.

Quincy Veterans Home Legionella Outbreak Kills Eight

Fifty two people have been sickened, and eight have died, in an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs 129 year old facility in the last 6 weeks. This news, coupled with recent outbreaks in California and New York, also likely connected to HVAC systems, has contractors in the business of installing ductwork or plumbing checking their insurance policies to see if they have coverage for losses of this nature.

According to brokers who sell pollution coverage for construction businesses, the product is “high severity, low frequency” coverage, reasonably priced for the risk involved. However, different insurers treat legionella differently. Some deem the bacteria included within the definition of “pollutant,” others require a special legionella endorsement to get coverage, and a few will not cover legionella under any circumstances.

The Center for Disease Control reports that there are between 8,000 and 18,000 cases of Legionnaire’s Disease annually in the U. S., with most originating from HVAC and non-potable water systems, but some also come from water faucets and showerheads. Average cost for a Legionnaire’s Disease endorsement runs between $1,250.00 and $1,500.00 for a million dollars of coverage.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Huntley Dropping “Copper Only” From Plumbing Code

For many years the Village of Huntley has been a community with the highest quality requirements for new construction, by means of a strict village building code. One of the provisions requiring developers within the village to live up to the highest standards of construction is Huntley’s plumbing code section 303.5.3:

“Absolutely no plastic materials shall be utilized within the confines of any building for water distribution. Exception: The use of CPVC pipe shall be permitted for residential fire suppression systems only.”

The State of Illinois Department of Public Health has prohibited Huntley from enforcing this limitation since August 2014, in the interest of “consistency” among local government plumbing codes within the state. However, the Department of Public Health does allow local government units to petition for the right to amend the state plumbing code within their jurisdictions. On September 10 Huntley’s Village Board will vote on a resolution adopting the state plumbing code verbatim as the Village plumbing code, removing forever the “copper only” water piping requirement.

Allowing future large scale residential construction with plastic water pipe will devalue every house in Huntley with copper water pipe, by putting lower cost plastic pipe homes on the market to compete with sales of existing copper pipe homes. Besides harming existing village residents, such a change could also reduce the village’s real property tax base over time.

While the health department currently prohibits Huntley from enforcing the “copper only” plumbing requirement, the Village Board should instruct the village staff to petition the state for the right to keep the plastic water pipe prohibition in Huntley’s plumbing code.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Stalled Progress On Representative Tryon’s Low Carbon Electricity Bill Threatens Shutdown Of Exelon’s Quad Cities Reactors

Huntley’s 66th District Representative Mike Tryon, Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 3293, Low Carbon Energy Portfolio, and Co-Sponsor of the companion legislation HB 2607, Renewable Resource Procurement, has been blocked by the state’s ongoing budget stalemate from wrestling either measure out of the House Rules Committee and onto the House Floor. As a consequence, Commonwealth Edison’s parent company Exelon must decide by October 1 whether or not to shutter its two reactor nuclear generating facility along the Mississippi River at Cordova, Illinois, known as the “Quad Cities” plant. Exelon must either agree to shut down the reactors after May 2017, or continue operating the facility through at least 2019.

Passage of the legislation would result in electric rate increases throughout the northern Illinois areas served by Commonwealth Edison, increasing costs for construction businesses using electric power to perform their work. On the other hand, shuttering the Quad Cities plant would significantly reduce generating capacity in the state, which could mean future difficulties for contractors and developers needing more power as their businesses grow and development in northern Illinois continues to expand. This is just one example of the barriers to businesses planning for their futures which our embattled politicians in Springfield seem unable to avoid as they struggle to please their base constituencies rather than solve our state’s difficult problems.

IDOT’s New Secretary Warns Against “Planning For Yesterday”

Governor Rauner’s newly appointed Secretary of Transportation Randy Blankenhorn warned in a speech September 3 at the City Club of Chicago that his agency is far behind the times: “I’m afraid that we’re planning for yesterday’s transportation system,” he told his audience of transportation professionals. Describing a bus load of four year olds driven for an hour each way to and from preschool, Blankenhorn complained: “That’s a transportation system that is not working.”

Reporting on the results of his listening tour around the state following his appointment, Blankenhorn said one logistics executive told him the business the state’s highways and intermodal rail facilities as its warehouses, because of the slow pace of freight movement across the state. “IDOT is not going to come up with the solution,” he warned, “It is going to be you. … Do we continue to build overhead message signs that tell me how late I am, or do we do a better job?”

In response to one question about designating high occupancy vehicle lanes on existing superhighways, Blankenhorn said he would prefer adding express toll lanes as roads are widened, so drivers needing to speed along to their destinations could pay for the privilege. He said tolls for such express lane usage would vary depending on the time of day and the traffic congestion conditions.

In concluding his address, Blankenhorn pointed out that nothing is likely to change regarding plans for future transportation needs until Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan work out their budget differences, and get the legislature back to work on the stacks and stacks of other legislation remaining to be processed.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Unions Win A Round For Day Labor Worker Organization

NLRB’s August 27, 2015 decision in Case 32-RC-109684, Browning-Ferris and Sanitary Truck Drivers Local 350, puts every employer hiring workers from temporary labor agencies on notice that even day labor has broad rights to organize and bargain collectively with the business owners who “lease” them from temp providers. Reversing more than 30 years of labor law precedent limiting the opportunities for collective bargaining by workers employed in day labor agencies, a majority of the Board ruled that those older opinions are “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances, particularly the recent dramatic growth in contingent employment relationships.” The majority opinion seeks to “put the Board’s joint-employer standard on a clearer and stronger analytical foundation … to best serve the Federal policy of ‘encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.’”

In other words, businesses in the construction industry and other segments of the economy who may have union contracts with a skilled labor force, but use temporary labor agencies to supply less skilled workers on a day to day basis as workloads fluctuate, will face renewed union efforts to organize the day laborers who report to work at their plants and project sites. The last 30 plus years of NLRB precedents have made it difficult for union organizers to establish that plant operators and construction contractors were joint employers of the day labor workers, forcing unions to organize and bargain only with the temp agencies. Under this new ruling, the companies putting agency employees to work from time to time can be the “employers” compelled to bargain collectively with the unions representing their temporary workers.

The case arose at a BFI recyclable sorting facility, where BFI directly employed operating engineers, spotters and other union workers outside the sorting facility to move materials as they arrived and prepare them for sorting, but used temporary workers supplied by temp agency Leadpoint Business Services to man the sorting lines within the plant as the workload might require. Local 350 sought to organize 240 full time, part time and on call sorters, screen cleaners and housekeepers to bargain collectively with BFI over wage rates, work hours and plant operating conditions. BFI Argued that, under the last 30 plus years of NLRB decisions, Leadpoint was the sole employer of the temporary workers, and BFI could not be compelled to bargain collectively with them.

The temporary labor contracts between BFI and Leadpoint were worded to take maximum advantage of earlier NLRB rulings. But, citing work factors controlled by BFI, including sorting line operating speeds, productivity standards, break times, safety, and mandatory overtime, the Board determined that, under its new, broader interpretation of “joint employer” status, the union could compel BFI, rather than only Leadpoint, to sit at the negotiating table with Local 350.

Whether or not your construction business currently has any union labor agreements in place, if you use workers from temp agencies on your project sites, or in your plant or office, you can expect to see union organizing efforts and bargaining initiatives for the temporary work force aimed at your business in the near future.