Ashley Alone In Opposition To Sprinkler Mandate

OCEAN CITY –The discussion on the town adopting state issued building code amendments, including the requirement to install sprinkler systems in newly built single-family homes, came to its resting place during last week’s Mayor and City Council meeting.

According to a letter written last month by City Engineer Terry McGean, on Jan. 1, 2010 the state recognized the 2009 International Building Code, and the International Energy Conservation Codes, replacing the 2006 version of these codes. Local jurisdictions were to implement and enforce the 2009 codes within six months of the state adoption.

The list of changes is extensive, but the requirement to sprinkle newly built single-family homes seems to be the most significant.

From previous discussions the Mayor and City Council have never found the need to go into deep discussion over the building code amendments, the changes are supported by the state of Maryland and have always been deemed favorable by the majority of the council.

During last week’s discussion, however, Councilman Brent Ashley voiced his concerns over mandating the installation of sprinkler systems.

Earlier in the meeting, a public hearing was held on banning smoking from Ocean City’s beaches and Boardwalk. A couple council members felt it would seem like government intrusion if a ban were to take place.

“Its funny because when we’re having the conversation about smoking some comments were made about government intrusion in our lives,” Ashley said. “I am going to vote against this because of the sprinklers, I would like to see us opt out of the sprinkler department, for that very reason, government intrusion.”

There were also some concerns over the language of the amendment, concerning the requirement that if a homeowner renovated a home up to a 50 percent change in value, then he or she would be required to adopt the amended code and make those changes as well.

“If the work being done to the home is more then 50 percent of the value of the home then it is considered a substantial improvement and a number of code revisions come into play,” McGean said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned the timeline of the renovations. For example, if 25 percent of the renovations were made and then some years later another 25 percent of renovations were made, would the percentage become cumulative, and the code would have to be enforced.

“It’s sort of ridiculous for me that if there is an accumulation of value over time,” Pillas said. “I would like there to be a limit.”

Councilman Doug Cymek asserted that in a presentation previously given on the building code amendments last year that subject was touched on.

“The town has 19 years of data in the computer regarding the change in permits…it is cumulative,” Cymek said.

Cymek also responded to Ashley’s concerns over the mandating of sprinkler system installations.

“I happen to be a Maryland registered home builder, and I probably will be one of the ones directly impacted by going along with this,” Cymek said. “Thinking about not only the people inside the house but about the fire fighters running up to the door to save the lives, and the adjacent neighbors…I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Ashley responded he is all for sprinkler systems, but not the fact that the government is going to be the ones to tell the homebuilder they have to do it.

The building code amendments passed in second reading with a vote of 6-1, with Ashley in opposition.