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Garrett County commissioners run through Maryland’s new sprinkler law

Cost of new residential system varies from $2,500 to $10,000

From Staff Reports Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — After Oct. 1, all new housing in Maryland — including Garrett County — will be required to have fire sprinklers installed, according to new legislation signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in May.

“The county cannot weaken fire suppression requirements,” said John Nelson, director of the Department of Planning and Land Development, during the June 5 county commission meeting.

The commissioners met with Nelson and James Torrington, chief of the Permits and Inspections Division, to review the county building codes, which follow on the heels of Maryland’s 2012 edition of the International Residential Code.

Every three years, the state amends building standards, of which local jurisdictions typically adopt six months later, according to a county news release. However, the county will delay making changes to its building code until the new sprinkler requirement takes effect.

Nelson said the new sprinkler requirements “will drive up the costs of construction significantly.”

The cost of residential sprinkler systems ranges from around $2,500 to around $10,000, estimates show.

The recent legislation amended the Maryland Building Performance to prohibit local jurisdictions from excluding automatic fire sprinkler system requirements for townhouses and one- and two-family dwellings.

Exceptions to the new sprinkler law include buildings without electricity, such as homes of Amish families, who may shun modern conveniences, according to the news release.

Two other exceptions to the mandate are valid until Jan. 1, 2016.

A dwelling unit doesn’t require a sprinkler system if either the lot was subject to a valid unexpired public works utility agreement executed before March 1, 2011, or the lot is served by a water line installed before March 1, 2011, that is less than 1 inch in size, approved and owned by the water system whose mains are fully operational, according to the news release.

July 1 is also the deadline to apply for percolation tests on properties planned for subdivisions. After July 1, major subdivisions of greater than seven lots may not be approved to use on-site sewage or septic systems, according to the news release.

The septic bill was based on recommendations from the governor’s Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal to minimize the amount of harmful nitrogen loads from septic systems that enter the Chesapeake Bay watershed, according to the news release.

The Maryland Department of the Environment was required to come up with regulations for nitrogen offsets, according to a pervious Times-News article. Currently, the septic systems leach out higher levels of nitrogen than are typically allowed on any public sewer system.

To schedule a percolation test, call the Environmental Health Division of the Garrett County Health Department at 301-334-7760.

More here.

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