July 8, 2008

Council Asked to Repeal Fire Rule

By The Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.

Jul. 8--STATE COLLEGE -- What was intended to be a fire safety measure for multiple-story rental homes in a section of borough code isn't really providing much added protection.

As such, borough staff has recommended that Borough Council repeal a clause that requires two-story residential properties to install sprinklers or a second means of egress as fire protection for tenants who live on floors in which the windows are at least 20 feet above ground.

At a public hearing Monday night, several property owners agreed and told council members the rules simply aren't feasible for some properties.

At Anita Genger and Eric Boeldt's historic property at 400 S. Gill Street, for example, the third floor serves as an apartment.

There are no sprinklers, but the tenant has access to the second floor exit as a second egress.

But to comply with the code, it first appeared that the couple would have to install a sprinkler system or another stairwell, which would be "ugly beyond all belief," Genger said.

"It doesn't quite fit the rules," she said.

If council keeps the 20-foot rule, borough staff recommends giving landlords other options to comply, such as allowing them to install an aluminum ladder that pops out with the push of a button.

But that could mean that the couple would have to install ladders off almost every window in every room of the apartment -- a bit much for just one tenant.

"Try to work on flexibility," Boeldt urged council. "Make sure it is written well enough so that code can look at the whole situation."

Council decided to hold a work session on the matter before making a final decision. An exact date has not yet been set.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.

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