Mandatory Sprinkler Law Delayed

SNOW HILL — Worcester County received two small pieces of good news this week, at least from the County Commissioners’ perspective.

The first piece of good news that came to the commission was the revelation that the state will not force mandatory sprinkler systems into newly built county homes for several years.

“Basically it’s backed off now until 2015,” said Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor.

Last year, the commission had voted to exclude Worcester from a then-fresh state mandate that would have required all new residential homes to have expensive fire suppression sprinkler systems included. But a few months ago, the commissioners learned that Annapolis decided to make the systems mandatory regardless of whether local government had decided to opt out.

However, Tudor revealed Tuesday that the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s interpreted the recent legislation that would have made sprinkler systems mandatory in such a way as to allow counties that previously opted out to continue to do so until the next code cycle in 2015.

“It’s one minor victory,” said Commission President Bud Church, who has been vocal in his dissatisfaction with state intrusion into local government this year.

The other piece of good news, while not a clear-cut a victory for the commission, is the Administrative, Executive, Legislative Review (AELR) committee will continue taking comments past its previous deadline in regards to controversial proposed septic regulations.

Earlier this month, the commissioners received word that Annapolis planned on handing down more stringent home septic regulations than previously anticipated. Those regulations would require an expensive initiative to install new septic systems using Best Available Technologies (BATs) in new residential structures in both critical and non-critical watershed areas.

While the commissioners all agreed that the goal of the regulations was positive, the expense, which would fall almost entirely on the county, was unrealistic and wrote a letter to the state to that effect. Commissioner Madison Bunting, along with many other state and county representatives, contributed comments to the first AELR committee hearing last week.

Bunting suggested that Worcester look into the legality of the proposed septic regulations while continuing to emphasize how unrealistic the county believes the costs would be.