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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

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Pool safety urged as summer heats up

Monday, June 24, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Ordinances governing above-ground pools in Henry County and Martinsville are designed to help keep tragedy out of summer fun.

“It really is a good idea to contact us first. That has the potential to save a lot” of lives, time and effort, according to Lee Clark, the county’s director of planning, zoning and inspections.

That is because there are several requirements and helpful information the county can provide even before people shop for a pool, he said.

“The construction of above-ground pools has changed a lot,” Clark said. “Now, they can be 4-feet deep, and that is really scary when you talk about a child being around something like that unsupervised.”

The county’s requirements are intended to be safety measures, and it is important to follow them because “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said.

County residents are required to obtain a building permit before installing a pool that is more than 24 inches in height. Also, there are certain placement requirements (setbacks), according to Clark and Cecil Stone, a county building official.

Pools are to be placed in a side or rear yard, unless the property is zoned for agriculture, Clark said. Pools can be placed in front yards then, but a building permit is required regardless.

Also, pools must have a fence or barrier around the perimeter that is at least 48 inches tall, he said.

Anyone who violates a setback requirement, the county code or a building code regulation can be charged and fined, Clark said.

But “we are not interested in that,” Clark said. “All we are interested in is compliance and keeping people safe.”

For that reason, the county has an informational sheet that “we can give residents for the asking,” Stone said.

The information is designed to help people shopping for pools, and help ensure the model purchased “is a properly listed and labeled pool,” Clark said. “If anyone has any questions, they can give us a call. We’ll be glad to help them.”

Chris Bridges, deputy building official in Martinsville, said the city also has several requirements pool owners must meet when installing an above-ground pool that is not considered a “kiddie pool” — the small, plastic pools that may be shaped like turtles and are drained and refilled daily.

Martinsville’s zoning laws require residents to be considerate of neighbors by not installing pools near property lines or in front yards. Also, a barrier/fence must be installed to prevent unintended entry into the pool, Bridges said.

“There is no substitute for parental supervision,” he said. However, he added that the required barrier, or fence, provides another layer of safety.

Some styles of pools may have covers that can be used in lieu of fences, and in other cases, there may be alternatives. For instance, residents can use the back of their home as one side of a fence or barrier if alarms are installed to alert the pool owner of any uninvited guests, he said.

If an improperly installed pool is found, Bridges said city officials work with residents “to make it right. And we will do everything we can to help.”

Most of the residents he has worked with are quick to oblige when they learn that that safety is a concern.

“When it comes right down to it, you can’t put a price on a child’s life,” Bridges said. “We are out there making sure we do everything possible to keep any kids from getting hurt.”

Also, “there are actually a lot of animals that drown” in pools, Bridges said. Even animals that can swim may drown because “some animals simply cannot get back out of the pool without some assistance.”

“We are here to help ahead of time,” Bridges said. “And it’s a whole lot easier to let people know what to do before they start.”

Both localities have separate rules for in-ground pools.

To reach city officials, call 403-5171.

In the county, call 634-4620.


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