How To Bypass PB City Inspectors? Build In County Then Request Annexation

For several months I’ve heard from contractors and City employees about the apartments being constructed outside the city limits on Hwy W. Most I’ve spoken to have indicated that the buildings do not meet Poplar Bluff building codes.

The owners of the property, Gill Family Properties from Dexter, have built three townhouses and have plans for a total of 12 buildings in the subdivision. The townhouses are very nice looking and quality rental properties are always a plus for a growing community.

Outside the city limits, no licenses are required for builders, plumbers, electricians, etc., and no inspections are made of the property. So buildings can be built much cheaper using non-certified workers to pull electrical cable, install outlets and electrical panels, run plumbing pipes, and the like.

From conversations I have had with City employees, the city planner, Dennis Avery, is aware that these buildings do not meet City code. But did Avery share any of those details with Planning and Zoning? Not to my knowledge.

Two weeks ago, I called and spoke to City Inspector, Scott Stone. Asked if the Gill Properties would be inspected once they were annexed, he said, no, they might check the width of the hallways for the fire department but other than that they really don’t do  inspections on buildings annexed into the city.

I asked the inspector whether they could inspect it since Municipal Utilities is providing power to the site. He said that they can only inspect it up to the meter if it is outside the city limits.

I don’t really blame the Gill Family for using the lack of codes to their advantage. It is probably a very wise business decision.  I stopped my investigation once I found out that on May 9th, the Gill Family requested annexation of the property. I felt it was a dead story since all of the remaining buildings would be inspected and built to code.

But yesterday’s DAR stated the request for annexation was only for only the three completed buildings not the entire subdivision of 12 lots. The DAR reported that when asked why Gill was not seeking a zoning classification and annexation for the entire site, Chad Gill replied “We don’t know how many we are going to build.”

Why, Mr. Avery, did you not inform Planning and Zoning that there could be another reason for the partial zoning & annexation request?

I have friends inside City Hall and while I was investigating this story I was informed that Dennis Avery had said that the Gill apartments were off limits because they were “friends of Bagby.” Oh, now we know why Mr. Avery didn’t speak up….

I think the city should consider changing their ordinances to include a few ways to protect their citizens. If you want the benefits of the City’s power, water and sewer then your buildings need to be built to City’s codes.

  1. Property owners must request annexation prior to requesting service from MU.
  2. All buildings constructed after December 31, 2013 and requesting annexation should be required to provide inspectors with all plans to prove they are within code and allow inspectors the ability to inspect the building.
    1. Out of compliance buildings shall either come into compliance, or
    2. Pay a higher utility and property tax rate for five years as a penalty, and be required to display a non-compliance warning on leases, sales contracts and front door of each building.
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After graduating from Mizzou with Computer and Electrical Engineering degrees in 1985, Brian Becker spent a decade singing Christian Rock and being a labeled artist with Benson Music Group of Nashville. In 1995, he and several investors started the area's first Internet Service called PBMO.net and by 2000 the company was serviing Internet access in over 50 communities throughout Southeast Missouri as SEMO.net. In July 2014, Becker again made a major pivot and became Publisher of the SEMO TIMES: a weekly print and daily online news and entertainment source for the region.

  • Jim Davis

    Just wondering what some specific instances of the building not being built to the city’s building codes. Just list some specifics. Did they have a engineering firm design the building? There must be some plans of some type as the buildings all look the same to me. There are many qualified people that are not certified (or licensed) by the city to do work within the city, but actually do just as good and sometimes better than those that are licensed by the city. Sounds to me like the old argument of union/nonunion on projects. The Gill family is making an investment in the Poplar Bluff community and is probably obtaining their materials and labor locally, and overall helping the Poplar Bluff economy. Yes, they may have used cheaper labor, but they are in business to make money. We all do the same thing when we by things from China or Mexico (in the case of Nordyne) to save money and make our bottom line better. I’m sure that they would not have cut corners on things that would cost them money in the long run. It will be interesting to see if the CVS pharmacy that is scheduled to be built in Poplar Bluff will use local labor and materials or will use labor and materials brought in from the outside the Poplar Bluff area. I have been told that when PBRMC was built that the electricians brought in from outside the Poplar Bluff area they had to get a electrical licenses from the city, but the bottom line is they were still from outside the Poplar Bluff business district and the dollars went to benefit other communities and did not stay inside the Poplar Bluff community as they should have. It would be interesting too know what percentage of the materials and labor that built PBRMC were from the Poplar Bluff Community and how much were from outside the Poplar Bluff Business District.

  • Brian Becker

    I’m not a plumber, electrician or builder so I cannot properly relay the specifics of what was told to me about the code violations. Those I spoke to were confident of their information and I had to rely on that.

    I clearly stated that the onus is on the City in this case and that I do not blame Gill for using the system to their advantage. No one is saying they are not operating within the law.

    The possibility that Bagby is protecting them is on Bagby if it is true.
    The fact that Avery didn’t fully inform P&Z is solely on him.

  • Alan Buttry

    Brian,

    I think Scott misspoke when he said they only inspect to the meter on properties outside the city. All new structures connected to Municipal Utilities must meet city codes (whether they are in the city limits or not) pertaining to electrical and plumbing or they will not be connected. That being said, it is still up to the Building Inspector whether they are “green tagged” for connections.

    • Brian Becker

      Notice in the enlarged version of this photo that they have extension cords going up to the construction site and the meter looks to be on the pole. Could that keep the inspectors at bay?

      • Alan Buttry

        No. That’s typical for temporary electric during construction. If the structure being constructed is in the Municipal Utilities service area it has to meet electrical and plumbing codes prior to connection of permanent services.

  • CAF

    I was discussing those apartments with a friend of mine that lives on W before the Hilliard bridge. She watched those go up day by day. She stated that she didn’t think there were fire walls betweeen the apartments, or she did not see them….Hmm I wonder if firewalls are only required in the city?

  • Timmy

    If they built according to their plans, they also broke city code by putting the electrical panel in the same room as the washer/dryer.

  • Peter

    Seeing all the development in that area and what Larry Hillis is doing I was disappointed to see apartments going in there. That should be prime commercial property and be a good location for a business. An apartment complex at a busy intersection does not make a lot of sense. The Gills should be allowed to build what they want on their property but it does seem to be a waste. Do you suppose they are getting tax credits or maybe breaks from the city? Why would you built apartments there? The apartments downtown are said to have over $285,000 in each unit. That is a waste of our tax dollars. It is not fair for local landlords to have to compete with a $285,000 unit that rents for $350. I hope this project is not the same.

  • Jim Davis

    Am I right in reading that the only code violations are putting the breaker box in the utility room and maybe not having a firewall between the apartments? I would venture to guess that 90% of the breaker boxes are in a utility room or a room that contains the washer and dryer so I don’t know why this would be a violation but it could be. Unfamiliar with regulations on the fire wall so I will not comment on that.