Malta Sprinkler Code Up in Smoke?

Malta’s Sprinkler Law Up in Smoke?

MALTA – The Malta Town Board is likely to revoke a town law requiring sprinkler systems in new commercial properties following notification from the New York State Department of State Division of Building Standards and Codes that there was a procedural defect in the town’s application filing the law.

Malta Sprinkler Code Up in Smoke?

The Malta Town Board discusses procedural defect in the town’s filing of a local law requiring fire-suppressing sprinklers in new commercial properties./Photo by Ashley Onyon.

Town Building and Planning Coordinator Tony Tozzi informed during the Town Board meeting Monday that a previous Town Board had passed the More Restrictive Local Standard requiring fire-suppression sprinklers in new commercial properties, but the state found that the town’s application establishing the law did not meet procedural requirements.

“I think what happened to this was it got filed as we would file a local law just with the Department of State, but it’s required to be filed with the Department of State Code Division within 30 days and it was filed within 37 days,” Tozzi said.

Nick McAndrew, with the State Code Division, informed Tozzi of the issue with the town law and discussed comments that he would have if the application were to go forward that the code council would take into consideration in their review process.

Tozzi said that the comments were relatively minor in nature. Examples include exempting from the law facilities connected to water lines owned and operated by the town and providing additional analysis in the town’s application describing how the more restrictive standards relate to the state code.

According to Tozzi the town standard, “goes above and beyond what the New York State Building and Fire Prevention Code requires.” Although the town’s original application included an explanation for the new standard, McAndrew requested additional information.

The code has not been enforced since it was adopted although it was originally intended to take effect 6 months after passage.

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“We weren’t going to have this code take effect until 6 months from when it was passed, because the understanding which we got from someone else at the Department of State was DOS had to reply to our petition within 6 months and if they didn’t it was our understanding that it would automatically be approved. That’s not the case, there is no deadline,” Tozzi explained.

If the town board wishes to move forward with the law, Tozzi suggested that the board address McAndrew’s comments and refile the application.

Town Attorney Thomas Peterson recommended that the board first schedule a public hearing on a proposed local law abolishing the sprinkler law, going through the process of naming the board lead agency, waiting 30 days and finally revoking the law.

At the board’s request, Peterson agreed to prepare a memo describing the situation and possible methods to address the issues and move forward with the law. However, Peterson questioned whether the board wanted to move forward with the change.

“This is sprinkler systems in commercial buildings not otherwise required and it adds to the expense of building commercial buildings. It seems to be in conflict with the board’s desire to encourage commercial development, so I just want to make sure that we’re not heading down the road without having made the decision, it was a former board that made that decision,” Peterson said.

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Tozzi pointed out that the sprinkler code had been drafted partially in response to a 2013 fire at Dunkin’ Donuts. The fire destroyed the building, when it was rebuilt in the same location, the company installed a sprinkler system although it was not required by law.

Malta Ridge Volunteer Fire Company Chief Peter Shaw, who was present for the meeting, informed the board that when amendments to the code were first discussed, he had pushed for requiring sprinkler systems in all buildings, including residential properties.

“I just don’t understand the whole state process with, ‘you can’t have something more restrictive.’ It doesn’t make any sense to me and we have to show special needs. There isn’t any more special need to me than one, life safety and two, the declining membership of the volunteer service in America,” Shaw said.

Town Board Member Timothy Dunn commented that he did not feel that he had enough information to make a decision, questioning the cost to developers and what the requirement actually calls for.

“Is it one extra sprinkler? Is it per square footage? I have zero information on this, so it is very difficult to say. I want safe buildings, but I’d like to have more information,” Dunn said.

The board agreed to review the information that had initially been prepared and presented to the former Town Board before making a decision to move the sprinkler requirements forward. Shaw said that he could send the board information, as well.

At the urging of Peterson, the board agreed to place revoking the local law on the agenda for the next Town Board meeting. “We have a local law that requires approval from the appropriate state bureau, which we do not have and therefore it’s on the books and it shouldn’t be there,” Peterson said.

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