Berlin Officials Concerned About Mandatory Sprinklers

BERLIN – Members of the town’s planning commission are hoping Berlin will fight new state regulations that require single family homes to include fire sprinkler systems.

The Berlin Planning Commission voted unanimously to advise the mayor and council not to adopt the state regulations but instead to look for an alternative.

“If you don’t push back against this crap, you’re going to keep getting it,” commission member Pete Cosby said.

According to Dave Engelhart, Berlin’s planning director, previous versions of the state fire code allowed municipalities to opt out of the requirement that one- and two-family homes be sprinklered. This year, however, the fire code says towns can no longer opt out and have to be in compliance with the state regulations by July 1. He approached the commission seeking a recommendation for the mayor and council’s consideration so the town could come into compliance before the deadline.

“We’re not allowed legally to opt out of that requirement anymore,” he said.

Commission members, however, said they didn’t want to see single family homes with a sprinkler requirement. Cosby said a number of buildings in Ocean City experienced frozen pipes this past winter because people didn’t know how to maintain their sprinkler systems.

“I know of at least four cases where buildings were destroyed this winter,” he said. “I don’t see the benefit of these fire suppression systems. All they do is cause more property damage.”

Berlin resident Ernest Gerardi told the commission he agreed with Cosby’s point of view.

“Let’s be realistic,” he said. “What we’re doing is driving home costs that much higher for our people.”

When asked what would happen if the town didn’t require new one- and two-family homes to have sprinklers, Engelhart said he wasn’t sure.

“I’m not sure what our liability would be if we didn’t enforce it,” he said.

Cosby said the regulation was idiocy.

“How long are we going to continue to put up with this crap?” he said. “If nobody’s going to fight back, we’re going to keep getting this garbage.”

The commission agreed to recommend that the mayor and council study the issue to see if sprinklers were really necessary. If a study reveals they’re not, commission members want to see the town fight the state requirement.