Bor­ough coun­cil kills new sprin­kler re­quire­ment

Vote driven by con­cerns over sti­fling down­town re­de­vel­op­ment

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

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

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