Because sprinkler requirements in the International Residential Code do not apply to HUD-certified manufactured homes, they won’t apply in those instances in Worcester County either.
That was the decision of Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday, when they unanimously agreed to pass a resolution based on the Maryland Fire Marshal’s guidance.
However, as county attorney Roscoe Leslie reminded the commissioners, a response is pending from the state Attorney General’s Office regarding their official position on the fire marshal’s stance.
“If the state attorney general approves (of the state fire marshal’s position), then we don’t have any problems at all,” Leslie said. “If the state attorney general’s office effectively overrides or vetoes the state fire marshal’s guidance, then basically any homes that have gone in (during) the interim will be in violation of the code and will have to be retrofitted at the owner’s cost.”
The commissioners previously approved following the fire marshal’s guidance that allowed sprinklers in manufactured homes.
Regarding the turnaround, the attorney general’s office has notified county officials that they have “moved us up in the queue” to reflect the situation’s urgency, Leslie said.
“I expect it to not be immediate, but it’s going to be as soon as they get it out,” he said.
Commissioner Chip Bertino raised the point of how the county will go about notifying county residents if the decision results in homes having to be retrofitted.
“How will we make sure they’re made well aware that this could be an issue,” Bertino asked, adding that he’d like to see something that residents would need to sign.
“I don’t want anyone coming back to us saying, ‘we didn’t know’ that we were doing this.”
Leslie suggested flyers or some kind of “educational process” to make residents aware of the current risks.
Director of Development, Review and Permitting Jennifer Keener said that anywhere from 25 to 50 manufactured homes could go up in Worcester County in a given year.
When Bertino asked Keener if the commissioners’ decision would affect permits currently in place, she replied that they would.
“The way we’ve worded the resolution is (such) that it would take effect immediately upon passage,” Keener said. "So if we had any that are in-house for review, we would contact them and let them know of this decision.”
Keener assured Bertino that the county would make sure individuals are aware of the risks.