Park City exempt from legislation amending construction and fire codes
Bill would have rescinded municipality’s authority
March 28, 2017
The Park City Fire District, along with some of the city's elected leaders, successfully campaigned during Utah's Legislative session to ensure a measure amending construction and fire codes would not negatively impact public safety in Park City.
"We work on a lot of bills down at the Legislature and the reason we have made so much noise about this is because we thought property owners—commercial and residential—had a right to know," said Matt Dias, Park City's assistant city manager. "It was a very large, overarching piece of legislation dealing with statewide fire codes that would have directly targeted Park City."
House Bill 281, which is currently awaiting Gov. Gary Herbert's signature, repeals municipal requirements related to fire safety, fire notification systems and fire suppression systems. The bill rescinds a municipality's authority to require new structures or subdivisions to have fire sprinkler systems under certain circumstances. However, the bill includes amendments specific to Park City and Sandy City.
The amendments allow Park City to continue to require approved automatic sprinkler systems in all new buildings having more than 6,000-square-feet on one floor or two stories, new construction in the historic commercial business district and all existing buildings within the historic district, among others. The bill's desired intent was to create a statewide standard for construction.
"House Bill 281 basically cleaned up language related to a few other jurisdictions, but it also targeted the Park City-specific provision," Dias said. "At the last hour, someone told us they were going after Park City and we worked very closely with them to come up with a compromise."
City officials say they were unaware the measure was being supported by local builders because their concerns about the damage fire sprinklers can cause when they freeze. Dias said "If we would have known that, we would have tried to resolve this locally."
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To address the builders' concerns, Dias said Park City authorized an administrative change that allows a new antifreeze chemical solution to be used in sprinkler systems.
"Now that we have allowed builders to start using antifreeze in the system, which they weren't allowed to do before, they don't have that problem anymore," said Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt. "I have to give credit to the Park City Homebuilder's Association for working on that."
Hewitt said he believes the legislation was amended to ensure the city's safety in the event of a devastating fire. He said the Park City provision is critical because the area is considered a wildfire urban interface and "we had to make sure our needs and the way we do business up here and our protection was maintained."
"We had the changes made that we needed because we insisted on it and they were very supportive of it because Park City is totally different than the rest of the state," Hewitt said. "We tried to be as sympathetic as we could to the builders because we all know sprinkler systems have their own set of problems and are a pain. But, while sprinklers cause water damage, fire kills people. Sprinklers work, they put fires out and keep them in check. We had to make sure they were still a requirement."
Geri Strand, executive officer with the Park City Home Builder's Association, said the organization wanted to maintain its relationship with Park City and the fire district, while reconsidering the use of sprinklers.
"We didn't necessarily agree with them about the sprinklers, but we are bringing glycol back and we are OK with that. We obviously don't want Park City to burn down, but we all came to an agreement," Strand said. "Overall, we are happy. They are happy. The state could have just bulldozed through this, but we were able to get them to pause while we all sat at the table with an amendment. That was our goal."
To view the bill and follow its status, go to https://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0281.html.>