Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Let the Anti-Sprinkler Revolution Begin....In Maryland First

The backlash against fire sprinklers is beginning and of all places, the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This small part of MD is located between the Chesapeake Bay on the West and the Atlantic Ocean on the East.

Having lived there for over 5 years I can attest that it is a great place having sandy beaches and a great boardwalk in Ocean City and great blue crabs from the Bay.

One would not think that a revolution just might have its beginning in such a place but maybe house building and especially modular housing have found an ally in the fight against mandated sprinkler systems in single family homes.

Beracah Homes is located right up the road from Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Delaware and has to fight this stupid sprinkler regulation every time they send a modular home into MD. One county has had only one new home application since the new sprinkler regulations went in 5 months ago.

Delmarva is comprised of Delaware, Eastern Maryland and a small sliver of VA and DelmarvaNow is the top newspaper in the area.

Read the article and let’s all join in the Revolution!

A good idea can still be an overreach

THE DAILY TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD5:12 p.m. EST November 2, 2015 Delmarva Now

We don’t like government hindering an entire industry, especially one so firmly rooted in the “American Dream.”

To see the negative impact of government, try to get away.

Get away from the halls and furrowed brows and committee meetings of Annapolis. Get out on the back roads of the Eastern Shore, where regular folks are trying to build an affordable new house.

This is where government impacts people – impacts their finances, impacts their lives. That’s where government hurts, rather than helps.

Here’s an example:
In Maryland, new homes are required to have automatic sprinkler systems. It is a law that can add almost $10,000 to the cost of a small home with its own well.

For bigger homes, it is a bigger price. And the regulation has cooled new home construction in Wicomico County and other rural areas.

That’s not acceptable. We don’t like government interference hindering an entire industry – especially one like home ownership, so firmly rooted in the “American Dream.”

It’s not acceptable because people who own homes in a community establish roots in that community. They pay real-estate taxes in that community. They become invested in the community.

Home ownership should be easier, not harder.

We think the law requiring automatic sprinkler system is a bit over the top. Several Eastern Shore lawmakers will try during the upcoming legislative session to repeal the law, and we wish them luck.

While counties could ask the state for an exemption to the law, this year the exemptions were no longer allowed.

In Wicomico County alone, there has only been one application for a new home made since July, when the law took effect, reporter Jeremy Cox revealed in a recent article.

Builders correctly are frustrated with yet another regulation being added. Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver correctly said home construction already had been hindered by tougher state regulations on septic systems two years ago.

There is another side to the argument, and that is fire safety. A sprinkler system is a lifesaver when it comes to emerging from a burning building.

There have been three fatal fires on the Eastern Shore of Maryland so far in 2015, including one each in Pocomoke City and Salisbury. In all, four people have died in the three blazes.

The sprinklers are advocated by esteemed groups like the Maryland State Fireman’s Association and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. So installing a sprinkler in a new home isn’t a bad idea.

But education, not a legislative requirement, should be the focus. There should be a component in which people are taught how sprinklers can curb fire deaths. But to dictate their installment as a statewide regulation is an overreach.

The trickle-down of such regulations impacts many: Builders and their employees, lumber yards and their employees, those who sell fixtures and furniture and everything else.

Unfortunately, the regulation has impacted Wicomico at a bad time. With each passing day comes more speculation on when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.

When it does – and some officials have said they might raise rates by the end of 2015 – borrowing money for a new home will be more expensive. The rates have not increased for almost a decade.
The housing recovery in recent years hasn’t exactly been robust. We’re sorry to see the chance to get an inexpensive home loan for new construction being squandered by Annapolis regulations on how the home must be built.

Maryland and California are the only states to require sprinklers statewide. When it comes to governance, we should insist on not being grouped with California in any way, form or fashion.

Including on required household sprinklers.


Mike said...


Brandy from Salisbury said...

Mike, you say it is 5 years too late and it is for the modular builders in MD but now the site builders will suffer and that will begin to hurt them enough to force changes to the sprinkler codes. Wicomico County in MD is big and to have only one new building permit in 5 months will bring out the big guns.

Look at it this way, we are 5 years ahead of the curve.

Harris - Finish Werks said...

Where is our new, pro-business/anti-regulation Governor Hogan? Mr. Hogan - can you hear us???

Roger Collison said...

At Beracah Homes, we've complied with the sprinkler requirements for a couple years now. We support installing sprinklers as a preventive measure and a life safety measure. However, we believe it should be required to be offered, but not mandated. I have a couple major concerns going forward...
1) Modular companies were unfairly treated over against site builders in that local regulators didn't take into account the fact that all systems built houses, including modular construction, have to comply with both the state and local codes. This put modular construction at a competitive disadvantage. We lost quite a number of homes to site builders because people didn't want sprinklers, even when we offered to install them for free. So, any new regulations need to keep the playing field fair for ALL BUILDERS.
2) The sharply rising building codes, including energy codes and fire codes are dramatically raising prices to consumers and reducing profit margins for new construction. As a result, many builders go out of business or just stop building homes. Increases are ultimately passed on to consumers who are unknowingly paying much higher price.
3) Existing homes don't have to be retrofitted which creates an unfair competition between buyers choosing an existing home or new construction. The result, lost jobs and a weaker economy.
4) If council members and legislators were required to install sprinklers in their own homes before voting "yes" to the mandate, I don't think it would get even on vote. If it is necessary for someone else's family, why not the family of the very fireman and councilman who are pushing for it. Isn't it a bit hypocritical to say "Do as I say, but not as I do"?

Let's not let the regulators put modular construction at a competitive disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing now that the sprinkler law is gong to affect the stick built industry, they are screaming as loud as tehy can about the additional costs and how it will effect teh buyer, but when the legislature passed the same fro the modular industry to comply, there was bearly a whimper?

Charlie said...

"There was bearly a whimper" because modular construction is only 1.5% of all new housing construction, even less in Maryland.

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