Revised Sprinkler Law Drafted In Taneytown

Changes To Ease Some Rules For Businesses

June 12, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

TANEYTOWN — Apparently Councilman Thomas J. Denike received an "A" on his homework.

City Attorney Thomas F. Stansfield presented the City Council Monday with a draft sprinkler ordinance that contains the recommendations Denike, the council's newest member, outlined at a special meeting last month.

Denike made his recommendations, which would overhaul the city's existing ordinance, after researching state and county requirements for sprinkler systems in new commercial construction, building renovations and residential dwellings. He reviewed ordinances in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County.

Under Taneytown's proposed ordinance, which will receive final consideration at the council's July 8 meeting, sprinkler systems would be required in new single-story buildings 8,500 square feet or largerand multistory buildings 10,500 square feet or larger.

In rewriting the city's ordinance, adopted earlier this year, council members have said the existing law is too restrictive because it sets no size limitations on commercial construction and because of the renovation clause.

The existing ordinance requires sprinkler systems to be included in all new commercial construction, regardless of size. All renovations, repairs and remodeling to existing commercial buildings must include sprinkler systems in the entire building.

In addition, multifamily dwellings, such as town houses and duplexes, must have sprinklers. Single-family homes are exempt from the ordinance.

Members of the business community have complained that the ordinance creates a hardship and will curb development and downtown revitalization.

The proposed ordinance would eliminate language pertaining to the renovation and repair of existing buildings and let the state requirements prevail. The state requires sprinklers in other construction, depending on building use, occupancy and potential hazards.

By 1996, the city will require all new residential dwellings, including one-and two-family houses, to have sprinklers installed at the time of construction.

The proposed ordinance, though, is more restrictive than the state's, which requires sprinklers in all new commercial construction of single-story buildings over 12,000 square feet and multistory buildings over 15,000 square feet.

Denike said council members reviewed the proposed ordinance with fire officials, who supported the changes. But Denike said fire officials, like council members, maintain concerns about installing sprinklers in existing multifamily structures.

He said existing multifamily homes present one of the larger potential fire hazards but are "one of the most difficult to address." Denike recommended that the city consider requiring existing multifamily buildings to be retrofitted with sprinkler systems.

Councilman James L. McCarron suggested that existing multifamily buildings should be retrofitted with either fire alarm or sprinkler systems. He said multifamily homes should be protected somehow.

And even though the council has spent considerable time the past three months discussing measures to revise the sprinkler ordinance, they remain concerned that loopholes will exist.

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