Borough council kills new sprinkler requirement
Vote driven by concerns over stifling downtown redevelopment
Concerns raised about the impact proposed new sprinkler requirements would have on redeveloping older buildings in town moved council to remove it from a package of fire code updates it voted May 14 to advertise.
Instead, the requirement for installing a sprinkler system in an existing building when the use changes will remain where it is today — 12,000 square feet.
Fire Chief Michael Lessar Jr., who had proposed the changes, but said he is “OK” with council’s decision, said the average downtown building along High Street is 6,000 to 7,000 square feet.
Last week, Peggy LeeClark, director of Pottstown Area Industrial Development, told council she was concerned the cost of the new rules Lessar was proposing could stifle enthusiasm for redeveloping older downtown buildings scare away investors.
Last night, former councilwoman Sheryl Miller and activist Thomas Hylton added their voices to Lee-Clark’s.
Calling sprinkler systems “an onerous requirement” for investors when facing the already daunting task of the costs and codes hurdles involved in renovating vintage buildings, Hylton said “now tell an investor he has to put a sprinkler system in, well it’s just not going to happen.”
Their’s were not the only objections.
Both Councilman Ryan Procsal and Council President Dan Weand said they had received calls and heard from constituents over the weekend voicing similar concerns.
“I don’t want to inhibit any work on High Street,” Procsal said.
And although he could not be at May 14’s meeting, Councilman Joe Kirkland asked Weand to read a letter proposing that the matter be tabled so a committee could take a closer look at it and get a better handle on its potential impacts.
“I proposed we take the advice of our Main Street Manager and take a closer look at this,” Kirkland wrote.
Instead, council moved the ordinance forward for advertisement, but removed the more restrictive sprinkler rules for existing buildings Lessar had proposed.
The advertisement will now alert the public to an ordinance that contains Lessar’s other suggestions, “verified fire protection providers;” requirement for a “cloud-based” data system to report fire alarm or sprinkler systems that may be malfunctioning and more extensive requirements for fire alarm systems.
“I don’t want to inhibit any work on High Street.”
— Ryan Procsal, Pottstown Borough councilman