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Need help with local government!

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by Paver56, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. Paver56

    Paver56 Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Lititz PA
    I am in a bit of a bind. I built my house 4 yrs ago with radiant heat and a propane boiler. We put a salon in the basement for my wife. Long story short, the local inspector told us her salon was commercial space which somehow made my heating system fall under the guidelines of PA L&I.
    He inspected it and it passed. Since then, I installed a Froling with 1500 gal of storage. Last thursday the L&I inspector showed up and told my wife he was there to inspect the boiler. I told her not to let him in but it was too late. He called me, and told me he has the right to enter my private residence(cause the boiler is in my basement, not in the salon) I argued to no avail. He then said since it is not made in america-and other things that I will be getting a letter with a list of violations. If I do not fix the violations in 30 days, he says he will enter my home and put a lock on my boiler so that I cannot use it. I went down to light a fire tonight and discovered that he actually took the cover off of the top of the unit where that controls and computer are located.
    Any freedoms in this country are all but gone. I am so frustrated. Cannot wait to get the list of my violations.
    What approach would you all take? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. pyroholic

    pyroholic Member

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    Post the list when you get it and let these minds work. Sounds like a crock. I would start by finding out if he truly had a "right" to just come on in unannounced. Did he have a badge and a gun? Good luck and tread lightly, the government can be a tough monkey to get off your back.
  3. Paver56

    Paver56 Member

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    "Ironic" thing is that I just won the primary election to be one of our township supervisors.
  4. pyroholic

    pyroholic Member

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    That should help, start making friends in all the right places.
  5. Norwegian Wood

    Norwegian Wood New Member

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    Welcome to the USSA, where the Constitution is just a historic document.
  6. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I think this will be a big factor in your future peace, with this issue.

    Aside from that, it's tough to say much, until you get the list of violations. It might be much less (or much more) than you anticipate.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    mikefrommaine likes this.
  8. infinitymike

    infinitymike Minister of Fire

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    Thats a crock..... Even the police need a warrant and just can't barge in.
    Then he messes with your boiler....I see a lawsuit... Trespassing and tampering with private property.
    BoilerMan and mikefrommaine like this.
  9. infinitymike

    infinitymike Minister of Fire

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    Sad, but so stinkin true.
    You can't even quote the document without people getting into a hissy fit.
  10. __dan

    __dan Burning Hunk

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    First thing, try to maintain a good frame of mind. It is just a game. What really matters are the proposed penalties. Worst are the per day fines, usually for zoning violations, and per day add up fast and are something to fear. People lose their properties to the per day fines.

    If the fine, penalty, is in the range of single occurrence 100 or 200 dollars, he cannot hurt you worse than that, it's a game you can play.

    Likely there are no criminal charges, like working without a license. Usually residential properties cannot be entered by the building official except by invitation (the permit). Commercial properties can be entered at any time by the BO and the fire marshall can enter any property at any time for inspection. This is verbiage in the state statutes that varies by state.

    Usually they respond to complaints and this is the first thing to determine. You have a right to face your accuser. Ask if there is a complaint against you or is he also playing a game (did you beat his nephew, friend, in the last election, and if so, you may have a counterclaim).

    He will give you a tell whether he is playing fair and square or he is a bullshitter, hack, butt kisser, addicted to power, and out to screw the clueless and gullible citizens.

    Anything he cites that sounds fishy, ask for the code reference and look it up. Do not trust him to do the right thing, it does not work that way.

    It is very hard for him to stop you if you are doing everything right. Even if you are doing something wrong, it is hard for him to stop you in your own home. What you really need to pay attention to are the per day fines and if the letter says cease and desist. If the letter does not say either of those, he is being friendly and neighborly and there is probably something administrative to satisfy his requirements, filing of additional documentation.

    As far as I know indoor wood burning is not banned or prohibited anywhere. Bans usually specifically apply to "outside" wood burning and OWB''s, and things that pollute. He cannot prove you are polluting since you are not. Actually, likely, you are doing something new that he nor anyone near you has seen before, gasification boiler with storage. Since it is new and not specifically prohibited, looking at his citations and the code references may offer some protecton. By convention, people have heated their homes by burning wood since colonial times. You may be protected by this convention in the law.

    He does not lock the boiler, he would tag it deficient and put a letter in your file.

    There are routines and provisions in the statutes, like asking for interpretation of code issues at the state building officials office. If he is fair and square you are mostly there already with good equipment and design philosophy, implementation. You will not be ripping out the Froling like you maybe would if the boiler was junk or the design defective. I would not spend a lot of time trying to convince him of quality or the excellence of the factory engineering. Based on my personal experience, if he just has to have his butt kissed I would be pretty quick to go scorched earth and send each one of his citations to the state building official for request for interpretation, even if you think he his right. It is not a situation where right or wrong matters., he just needs to be sued a few more times.

    It is possible to fall into a grey area where you have applied for something, permit, code interpretation, and your work continues while the process goes its own way on its own time. You could advocate for doing the right thing and write letters to the legislators, regulators.
  11. __dan

    __dan Burning Hunk

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  12. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    A couple details that may be interesting:

    I assume you self-installed the wood boiler without a permit? I also assume this is why you didn't want the inspector in your house? He inspected and approved everything but the wood boiler?

    The Froling boiler, as far as I know, is not an ASME stamped pressure vessel nor is it UL approved. Hence, had you applied for a permit prior to deciding on the Froling for your home/business I suspect the inspector would have denied your permit application for a host of reasons not the least of which being the aforementioned designations that many localities will look.

    Hire a lawyer? Sure, but I bet the building inspector will be able to successfully force you to remove that boiler if it does not meet their requirements (building code). If that list comes back and says that your boiler is not approved for use in your town I'd save the money on a lawyer, sell the Froling on Craigslist and buy something they will approve. I just don't see how you would win this fight if they cite any kind of building codes or pressure vessel requirements that your system fails to meet...
  13. arbutus

    arbutus Burning Hunk

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    Loc:
    Michigan UP
    ^
    If the installation was subject to permits and inspections and those weren't performed you have a problem.

    If the inspector finds the device not suitable for the salon, can its own heater or heating system be installed that will meet his requirements?
  14. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    It is going to cost, but I would not hesitate to get a lawyer to make sure your rights are being protected.

    The fact he took a part of your heating system is unbelievable.
    Sad state of affairs, but it is what it is.
  15. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I would hesitate. I've dealt with my share of lawyers, and have never had a consult that didn't cost me at least $1500, by the time things are done. Make sure you have a lawyer ready to call, but I wouldn't go making that call until you're sure it's going to help you. Lawyers fees have a way of quickly making the cost of a boiler seem not so great.
  16. firecracker_77

    firecracker_77 Minister of Fire

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    Wow...4th amendment be damned
  17. tom in maine

    tom in maine Minister of Fire

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    I agree that a lawyer is going to be expensive, but you should make contact. The first call is usually free (at least here in Maine)
    and you need to know your rights. Being a town supervisor should help, but hopefully you are friends with a lawyer who can guide you
    initially.
    Ugh!
  18. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    I think the fact that he has a licensed business on the property dramatically changes his rights in certain areas, local authority access being one. Can the health department search a food service establishment without notice? Can the fire marshal enter a crowded night club without a warrant? I'm not a lawyer but I think this conversation would be 100% different if he didn't have the salon in his home.
    BoilerMan likes this.
  19. SIERRADMAX

    SIERRADMAX Feeling the Heat

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    What is the separating wall composed of? Commercial & residential requires 2 hr. wall. Did he/she point to that?
  20. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    My thoughts in no particular order................

    Get in touch with the people you bought the Froling from and enlist their help in the matter. I would guess they have been or are working on code and approvals for the product and may have something that would be of use.

    ASME is not such a big deal. You can simply "uncork" the system and operate it as an open vessel. ASME does not apply in that case. The UL listing may be a horse of a different color as there is no way around that which I am aware of.
    I would first double check to make certain it is not listed because I do no think it is legal to sell any kind of electrical appliance without a UL certification. I would be surprised if it is not listed.

    As to the inspector entering your home; If you have a business which during the course of normal operation is visited by the public, there is a completely different set of rules to comply with. You now fall under commercial codes for restroom facilities, barrier free construction, public water supply quality, fire codes, insurance requirements, and on and on and on.........As far as I know, he can do that.

    Good luck and welcome to doing business in the USA.
    Joful likes this.
  21. arbutus

    arbutus Burning Hunk

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    Regarding UL listing, does your boiler carry a CSA or some other European agency listing?

    You may be able to do a line by line comparison. Do the legwork, provide it to a PE if you know one or know someone who knows one, and have them stamp it as equivalent.
  22. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I like the idea to contact Froling. They're probably a good resource, having likely dealt with this before.

    However, you are incorrect on UL, unless perhaps with regard to residential equipment only. I have spent most of my career designing and building commercial electrical "appliances", and they are very rarely UL certified.
  23. http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/corporate/contactus/faq/general/background/

    From UL:

    • Do I need to have the UL Mark on my product in the United States? Is there a law stating that my product should have a UL Mark? Does our product require UL testing?

      Manufacturers submit products to UL for testing and safety certification on a voluntary basis. There are no laws specifying that a UL Mark must be used. However, in the United States there are many municipalities that have laws, codes or regulations which require a product to be tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory before it can be sold in their area. UL is the largest and oldest nationally recognized testing laboratory in the United States. UL does not, however, maintain a list of the jurisdictions having such regulations.
      If you plan to market your product nationally or internationally, it is advisable to obtain UL Listing. If a limited marketing program is anticipated, check with the municipal office having jurisdiction in the particular areas to learn the local retail ordinances or product installation requirements applicable in that area.
      Many companies make it their policy to obtain UL Listing not only to minimize the possibility of local non-acceptance, but also as a matter of corporate policy and commitment to minimize the possibility of risk in the use of their products.
  24. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Roughly translates to, "We recommend you buy our product."
  25. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Basically if he can point to litrature that states commercial properties MUST have UL aproved or ASME stamped pressure vessles then you MUST meet those requirements. You can get arount the ASME as heaterman said by running on open system....But if the town or local requires a UL listing and you can't find that Froling has submitted for their stamp then you may have some deep legal battles. Does it matter? Well that depends on who you ask :confused:. I'd think that if you have type-X sheetrock or some type of 2 hour rated boiler seperation and/or sprinklers you are good at least in Maine that's how it is. I have to work with fire ratings on a daily basis in my work.
    You may also need an engineered drawing/layout of your salon and the correct placement of the fire rated partitions. I would think if the boiler is not accessable from the salon (can you make it that way?) then it is not a hazard to to the salon, and would fall under the residential codes for heating. Basically if you make an island out of the salon and the only access is through fire rated doors or the outside it is considered a seperate building. And is heated solely by the water which poses no threat.

    TS

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