County Letter To State Outlines Sprinkler Plan

County Letter To State Outlines Sprinkler Plan

SNOW HILL –  Worcester County leaders this week forged ahead with their plan to bypass the state’s residential fire sprinkler requirements.

On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners voted unanimously to send the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation a letter outlining the county’s plan to offer property owners a residential fire sprinkler waiver. The commissioners believe the state’s fire sprinkler requirement is government overreach that’s impacting the cost of homebuilding.

“While we understand that there is an argument that such systems may save lives and/or reduce fire damage, it is our collective feeling that the decision whether or not to install such systems should be left to the homeowner and not mandated by state law,” the letter reads.

Last month, the commissioners instructed county staff to develop a building permit that would include the option for a single-family dwelling residential sprinkler waiver. Property owners not interested in installing residential sprinklers would simply be able to check a box on the permit and sign an accompanying waiver. The commissioners’ request for the waiver came when staff confirmed that Allegany County was not requiring residential fire sprinklers in spite of state law, which made them mandatory in new residential homes in 2015.

“In a rural county such as ours, where public water supplies are limited, this state mandate costs individuals building their home thousands of extra dollars in construction costs,” the letter sent this week reads. “Oftentimes this extra cost can keep a first-time home buyer from purchasing a new home. Additionally, Worcester County borders both the states of Virginia and Delaware and therefore our local home builders must compete with home builders in those states that do not have a fire sprinkler mandate. This situation adversely affects our local economy.”

The commissioners set a proposed effective date of July 1 for the new permit and waiver and are seeking a response from the state regarding the proposal by May 1.

“If they get back to us by May 1, that’ll give us two months to hash it out,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.