A January 2,2016, Baltimore Sun article reported on the pending debate of legislation to alter a 2012 mandate requiring the use of sprinkler systems in new residential construction. As previously reported on Conduit Street, Delegate Christopher Adams (a Republican representing Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico Counties) has pre-filed legislation to make the requirement a local option. The legislation is in response to allegations that the cost of the mandate is endangering affordable housing in rural areas. MACo opposed the 2012 mandate, arguing it should be a local decision.
The Sun article provided a variety of viewpoints on the issue:
“It’s halted the construction of affordable single-family housing,” Adams said. “Whether counties decide to mandate sprinklers is a decision they can make locally. Now we have data from counties demonstrating economic impact.” …
Adams said he believes sprinklers provide superior protection, but builders and consumers should be allowed to decide whether they want to pay for such devices.
Fire Marshal’s Office
Maryland recorded 60 fire fatalities in 2015, down from 64 the year before, said Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce D. Bouch.
“So many of these deaths would not have occurred if they had residential fire sprinklers,” he said. …
Bouch said the cost burden of the sprinkler mandate is exaggerated, especially because it can be spread over a 30-year mortgage.
Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver
Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver said his Eastern Shore area has felt an economic impact.
“We had a rush of 60 permits” before July 1, the end of the county’s ability to opt out of the mandate, Culver said. “Since this went into effect July 1, we had one permit pulled. That has put us in a real quandary. What can we do to get people to build here?”
Culver said rural counties do not have the utility infrastructure to deliver the water needed for an effective sprinkler system. Many rural homes also do not have insulated areas — a garage or a basement — for the pump and water storage tank to avoid freezing temperatures. …
He noted that drownings account for far more deaths than fire fatalities in Wicomico County, yet swimmers in Ocean City are not required to wear life jackets.
Maryland Association of Realtors
William Castelli, senior vice president of government affairs for the Maryland Association of Realtors, said he has been hearing from real estate professionals in rural counties that the mandate is imposing significant costs for builders constructing homes on well water.
Katie Maloney, chief lobbyist for the Maryland Building Industry Association, agreed [with Castelli’s assessment]. The association has no position on Adams’ bill, but opposed the mandate three years ago. The group was joined by 16 counties that sent a letter in opposition.
Clarification: According to Maloney, the Building Industry Association later dropped its opposition to the mandate in order to protect projects that had been grandfathered locally as some of the counties were adopting their code changes.