Residents expressed concerns about a sprinkler ordinance in Peters, but no decision on any possible action

Published Apr 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm (Updated Apr 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm)

One hour of a two-hour meeting of the Peters Township Council April 14 was spent listening to property owners urge council members to repeal an ordinance requiring certain homes to have sprinkler systems.

John Williams of 144 Driftwood Drive, is president of the Hidden Brook Homeowners Association, and is one of the nearly 43 percent of the residents in the plan off Hidden Valley Road to experience a burst pipe. Repairs cost his insurance company $150,000, he said. As a result, Williams told council, his homeowners insurance policy has increased 50 percent.

Township ordinance 542 requires some residences to have sprinkler systems, such as patio homes, garden apartments and townhouses.

According to Michael Silvestri, township manager, most of the broken sprinkler pipes have been reported in the Hidden Brook plan developed by Heartland Homes, which has since been sold. For some, shifting insulation near the system may be the culprit.

Many of the residents of Hidden Brook spend the winter in warmer climates and worry the pipes could freeze, break and result in substantial damage.

“We all worry about that next break,” Williams said.

Some of the property owners who spoke April 14 would like the ordinance to be eliminated. However, John Smith, township solicitor, said he will search for case law to determine if current occupants would still be required to maintain the systems as the ordinance was in effect when the houses were built and an occupancy permit was issued.

As of April 14, Smith said he could find no case law that repealing the ordinance would be retroactive to the current residents.

All of the property owners who spoke praised the Peters Township Volunteer Fire Department, the firefighters and the response time.

Peters Township fire Chief Dan Coyle said he supports smoke detectors and sprinkler systems, calling the smoke detectors an “early warning” and the sprinkler systems “a life saving device.” He went on to say sprinkler systems are “an on-duty firefighter.”

Responding to one resident who stated there are multiple ways to get out of the houses in the event of a fire, Coyle said often people, especially older residents, become disoriented. He referenced the death of Deputy Fire Chief Michael McLaughlin’s grandfather who died in a township house fire last Easter.

Also responding to a resident who accused council of not having empathy for the homeowners, David Ball, who was acting as chairman for the meeting, said council members do listen to residents’ concerns, “but we are constrained by the law.”

The meeting was the second time property owners have complained about the ordinance. No action was taken and no date was given for future discussion.

In other action, council:

• Approved the Claypool subdivision for Margie Claypool.

• Tabled a request by developer Ted Taylor III to delay construction of a right turn raised curb in the 40-lot Whispering Pines development off Bebout Road near Bower Hill Road. A meeting will be held among township officials and the developer before action is taken.

• Granted special permit requests for Kmart for storage of outdoor materials, and for a tent sale at South Hills Lincoln Mercury. No dates were given.

• Granted a request from Barry Bioni to place signs on trail bridges for the Eyes of Freedom Memorial set for early May. However, several council members expressed concern that the signs displayed the name of the sponsor in too large print. Township policy restricts signs on trail bridges to mainly non-profit groups having township events. The traveling Eyes of Freedom display is being held on the grounds of a funeral home that offers cremation services on Washington Road.

• Awarded a bid to Morgan Excavating for $1,311,000 for the summer road paving program.

• Announced the annual clean-up day is April 26.

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