Proposed Gorham home sprinkler rules under review

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GORHAM — The Town Council Tuesday forwarded a proposal to amend the town’s sprinkler rules to its Ordinance Committee for a review and potential rewrite.

The controversial ordinance amendment would mandate sprinklers to include all new, one- and two-family homes.

The council vote was 6-0 with Town Council Vice Chairwoman Sherrie Benner absent. The measure could return to the Town Council for a final vote in September.

The proposal kindled some opposition this week from the public podium. Jim Means of Beatrice Drive said homeowners should decide whether to install  sprinklers and not be dictated by the town. Means said the proposal is “stealing” liberties.

A violation of the ordinance would levy fines up to $100 per day.  A system would require an annual inspection by a licensed technician and, if not paid in full in 30 days, the Fire Department would consider the inspection “incomplete” and in violation of the ordinance.

“The way it is written is horrible,” Means told the Town Council.

Fire officials say a strengthened ordinance would make the community safer, protect firefighters and save taxpayers money in the future because of less need for additional Fire Department staff and more fire stations in the growing town.

Cost of a sprinkler installation in an average home in Gorham has been estimated to cost $8,000-$10,000. Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre said Tuesday sprinklers would save homeowners between 8 percent  and 14 percent in insurance costs in addition to construction savings because of a reduced need for other fire prevention measures like fire walls and doors.

In previous workshops on the sprinkler amendment, fire officials said a family’s escape time from a fire in a modern home is three to five minutes while the average Fire Department response time in Gorham is six to eight minutes.

Resident Paul Gore of Alberta Way has a sprinkler system but didn’t agree with forcing it on homeowners. “We’re shutting people out of town,” Gore said.

The language the Ordinance Committee will review requires a lockbox on the outside of homes with a key that allows Fire Department access. Sherry Garnett of McLellan Road was critical of the mandate, citing the installation costs and and saying that she didn’t like anyone having access to a home key.

“I feel violated,” Garnett said.

In other action, a request by Hans Hansen to review his contract zone in South Gorham to allow a home on a lot in his business park failed because of a lack of a motion by the board.

Town councilors also sent to its Ordinance Committee a review of “new and existing impact fees.”

Developer Susan Duchaine was concerned about another impact fee and said it would be challenged. “Think long and hard before putting on additional impact fees,” Duchaine said.

A 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana retail stores received Town Council approval and became effective Aug. 7.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com

Gorham homeowner Jim Means speaks Tuesday in opposition to the ordinance.