Court confirms decision nullifying Schuylkill Township ordinance requiring fire sprinklers in new homes


LEMOYNE, Sept. 7, 2007 – The Pennsylvania Builders Association, the voice of the state’s homebuilding industry, today praised a ruling by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to uphold a lower court decision disapproving a fire sprinkler ordinance that had been proposed by Schuylkill Township, Chester County.

Ordinance number 2005-1 was enacted on March 2, 2005 and would have required the installation of fire sprinklers in all new construction and in all structural additions of 1,000 square feet or more. It was disapproved by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas in a ruling filed Aug. 29, 2006.

“This court ruling is significant for number of reasons,” said 2007 PBA President Steve Black “Consumers are the big winners because this ruling helps hold down the cost of new homes by preventing a government mandate requiring fire sprinklers in new residential construction in Schuylkill Township. Consumers still have the option to install fire sprinklers if they so choose, but this added financial burden should not be government imposed. It should be an option for consumers to decide.

“This court ruling supports an earlier landmark legal decision by a lower court that, for the first time, clarified key wording in our state’s Uniform Construction Code. The wording that was in question is the code’s requirement that clear and convincing local conditions be proven which justify local ordinances that would exceed building requirements in the UCC. Some local governments were claiming local conditions that, in fact, were conditions common across the state.

“This most recent court ruling is another win for Pennsylvanians because it protects the uniformity of the state’s residential building code by preventing unnecessary local variations. That benefits everyone by ensuring the construction of safe, high-quality homes for the state’s residents.”

The initial court challenge to the proposed Schuylkill Township ordinance was filed in April 2005 by PBA, the Home Builders Association of Chester and Delaware Counties and others on the grounds that it exceeded the requirements of the state building code and that local conditions did not warrant such an exception. .

The state Department of Labor and Industry upheld that challenge in its November 2005 decision invalidating the Schuylkill Township ordinance. The township then elected to challenge the department’s decision in the Court of Common Pleas and, most recently, in Commonwealth Court.

Pennsylvania’s building code was enacted by the state legislature in 1999 and went into effect in April 2004. By establishing uniform building requirements for residential construction across the commonwealth, the UCC is improving the safety, performance, and energy efficiency of new homes.

“It’s easy to understand that the benefits that come from having a Uniform Construction Code arise from its consistent application across the state,” said Black. “The code ensures the quality and safety of new home construction in Pennsylvania. If needless variances to the code are granted to various localities, the advantages of having a single building code for everyone will be lost. Plus, public tax dollars are wasted when local governments expend time and resources to develop unnecessary local building ordinances.

“We want the public to understand that we are not opposed to the installation of fire sprinklers in homes. We do, however, oppose a government mandate requiring sprinklers. Since sprinklers would add to a home’s cost, we strongly feel this decision should be left as an option for consumers.”

The court’s opinion, which was filed Sept. 6, is available via the Internet at:

About PBA
Chartered in 1952, the Pennsylvania Builders Association is a nonprofit, professional trade organization representing 12,000-plus member-companies from across the state. PBA’s 528,000 individual members include builders, remodelers, material suppliers, subcontractors, consultants, lending institutions, utilities and others involved in the housing industry.PBA serves its membership by providing proactive leadership on state regulatory and legislative issues and by offering products and services to its 39 local associations that enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of its members. PBA serves Pennsylvania communities and consumers through its steadfast efforts to protect homeownership rights and advocate for affordable housing options. PBA is affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders.


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