Hotel & Lodging Regulations / Transportation & Infrastructure / Energy Efficiency

The Real Estate Roundtable discusses:

  • HOTEL & LODGING REGULATIONS
    Justice Department Extends Compliance Deadline for Costly New “Pool Lift” Regulations Affecting U.S. Lodging Facilities
  • TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY
    Senate Approves Two-Year Highway/Infrastructure Bill as March 31 Deadline Looms; Focus Now Shifts to the House
  • ENERGY EFFICIENCY
    Roundtable Members Recognized by EPA, DOE for Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction Efforts        

HOTEL & LODGING REGULATIONS

Justice Department Extends Compliance Deadline for Costly New “Pool Lift” Regulations Affecting U.S. Lodging Facilities

Responding to real estate industry concerns, the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday agreed to a 60-day, last-minute reprieve in the compliance deadline for new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “pool lift” requirements affecting hotels, multifamily buildings, and other properties. The costly new requirements, which were announced only in late January, were scheduled to go into effect yesterday (March 15).

  AHLA logo

The DOJ’s extended compliance deadline follows a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday from a coalition of real estate groups [led by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA)] that includes The Roundtable

DOJ also proposed to further extend the compliance date for six months, providing further opportunities for real estate stakeholders to assess the potential costs and other impacts of the new pool lift requirements. (See DOJ’s March 15 announcement) (USA Today, March 15)

DOJ’s extended compliance deadline follows a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday from a coalition of real estate groups [led by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA)] urging that lodging facilities be given more time to comply with the new requirements, and to find reasonable solutions to serve the needs of the disability community. The coalition includes The Real Estate Roundtable.

The methods for complying with the new requirements were prescribed in a Jan. 31 Justice Department “guidance” document” regarding implementation of the 2010 ADA standards.  The guidance advises affected property owners to install permanent, fixed lifts at pools and spas to ensure access by mobility-challenged individuals. Such lifts are considerably more complicated and costly than the portable lifts that have ensured accessible accommodations for pools and spas and which have been the prevailing industry practice.

While DOJ’s standards may provide an exemption in cases where installation of permanent lifts is “not readily achievable,” there are no clearly articulated guidelines defining the criteria necessary to be granted such an exemption.

The real estate coalition also expressed concern to Holder that businesses seeking to comply with the ADA are being given conflicting guidance and interpretation by local and state enforcement officials.

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March 13, 2012 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday from a coalition of real estate groups.

Additionally, said the March 13 real estate letter, DOJ “has not taken into consideration costly requirements for electrical bonding under the National Electrical Code, reconstruction of pool decks, increased insurance costs, and the liability concerns for pools and spas that do not have lifeguards to ensure the safety of children and other guests and equipment. Furthermore, hotels that have already been providing portable lifts report that they have been used or requested rarely, if at all, which makes the expense and complications of installing permanent lifts a poor investment with little chance of a return.”

While the real estate industry letter requested a one-year extension of the compliance date (to March 15, 2013), a group of 27 Senate Republicans last week urged an indefinite extension until a full notice and comment procedure can take place regarding the updated rule and its efficacy.

According to DOJ, stakeholders will have a 15-day opportunity to provide comments on a possible six-month extension “in order to allow additional time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance with these ADA requirements.”  The 15-day comment period will start upon publication of a DOJ notice in the Federal Register, expected next week.

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TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY

Senate Approves Two-Year Highway/Infrastructure Bill as March 31 Deadline Looms; Focus Now Shifts to the House

Voting 74-22, the Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a two-year, $109 billion transportation funding bill (S. 1813) that would, among other things, give states more flexibility in how they spend federal money; step up the pace of road construction by shortening environmental reviews; consolidate duplicative or ineffective federal transportation programs; and expand a federal loan guarantee program aimed at encouraging private investment. The bipartisan measure is supported by a wide number of private-sector organizations and coalitions, including The Real Estate Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Transportation for America (T4A).

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The Senate overwhelmingly approved a two-year, $109 billion transportation funding bill.

“We are hopeful this will become a template for all of us in the Senate and the House to find the sweet spot where we can work together,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was quoted as saying in USA TODAY on Mar 13.

A Roundtable letter sent to Boxer in early November — in conjunction with her committee’s voting on the so-called “MAP-21” bill (the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”) — characterized the legislation as “a significant step” in the direction of transportation policies that are balanced, prudent and forward-thinking.

“The bill advances bipartisan solutions to maintain, improve and modernize our infrastructure — while furthering the critically important objective of getting Americans back to work,” Roundtable President and CEO Jeff DeBoer stated in his Nov. 9 letter. The Roundtable also supports a longer-term transportation funding horizon, which allows for more coordination between transportation planners and real estate stakeholders on key projects. As a key underpinning of local, regional and national economies, infrastructure is vital to the health of U.S. real estate markets.

After weeks of intraparty debate and failure to coalesce around a separate 5-year transportation bill, House Republicans last week signaled they could take up the Senate measure — while still expressing a preference for longer-term funding. But with current transportation funding (and federal gas tax collection authority) expiring in 15 days, “the Senate bill might hold the only chance that legislation reaches the White House before the [March 31] deadline,” The Washington Post reported yesterday.

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Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

In a March 5 letter to congressional leaders, the U.S. Conference of Mayors warned that failure to act on transportation funding in a timely manner could have “devastating” consequences for the nation. Similarly, warned Sen. Boxer, “If we don’t act on this transportation bill, everything will come to a screeching halt. We are very close to the day when everything will stop.” (The Washington Post, March 15)

An obstacle to longer-term funding is that the federal gasoline tax — the primary source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund — is not keeping up with transportation needs. But, as the Post reported, “Neither Congress nor the White House has shown an appetite for increasing the tax or embracing the foremost alternative, a tolling system that would charge drivers for miles traveled.”

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ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Roundtable Members Recognized by EPA, DOE for Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction Efforts

  Energy Star logo

Among the 2012 Energy Star honorees was Roundtable member Beacon Capital Partners LLC, which was named an “EPA Partner of the Year.” 

At the 2012 ENERGY STAR awards yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) honored businesses and organizations for outstanding contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency. Among the honorees was Roundtable member Beacon Capital Partners LLC, which was named an “EPA Partner of the Year.” Beacon’s president and COO, Fred Siegel, formerly served as co-chair of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC).

Other real estate firms and organizations honored at yesterday’s awards ceremony included BOMA International, CBRE Group, HEI Hospitality LLC, Hines, Jones Lang LaSalle, TIAA-CREF, Transwestern and USAA Real Estate Company, all of which received EPA/DOE’s “Sustained Excellence” award.

The Roundtable congratulates the ENERGY STAR 2012 award winners, and all of our members who are at the vanguard of improving energy efficiency throughout our nation’s buildings. The achievements of all of the honorees are described in more detail online.

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