Georgia Senate to cities: Don’t ban wood in construction of high-rise apartments

Calling it a fight between the needs of urban Georgians and those who live in rural areas, the state Senate has given  final approval to a bill keeping local governments from banning the use of wood when constructing high-rise apartments.

The legislation, House Bill 876, now heads to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

Bill sponsor Rep. John Corbett, R-Lake Park, and other supporters of the measure say the law is needed to bolster the state's forestry industry. Corbett is a timber farmer.

"Rural Georgia has supplied us in urban Georgia with just about everything we have," said state Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon. "And now you want to dictate to them about construction."

“Vehicle,” the Phrase of the Week by James Salzer. Video by Bob Andres /

Beginning in 2014, Atlanta suburbs such as Sandy Springs and Dunwoody started restricting the use of wood-frame construction on buildings that are taller than three stories.

Local governments put the restriction in place for fire safety reasons, saying having wood frames for large structures puts lives at risk.

Besides the safety issue, state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said she disagreed with taking control from local governments.

“I don’t like these issues of urban versus rural,” Unterman said. “We’re picking the wood industry over the local government. What else is it that cities are going to do that you don’t like?”

State Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, said international building codes, which set safety standards for construction, don't limit the use of wood. Other materials, such as steel, are not always safer, he said.

“The ark was built out of wood,” he said. “The Titanic was built out of steel.”

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