Council: Builder responsible for fire safety issues

Published 6:00 pm Monday, October 31, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham officials said they will not issue a building permit to the owner of a lot in the city’s Oak Mountain Preserve neighborhood until the man submits plans to bring fire protection to the low water pressure area.

The announcement came during a special-called Pelham City Council meeting Oct. 31, during which council members consulted the city’s attorneys on the matter.

A builder currently is making plans to construct a 6,300-square-foot house on the lot, which is on top of a mountain near the Linda Nolen Learning Center.

However, because the lots on top of the mountain do not currently have enough water pressure to power fire hydrants up to the city’s fire code, the builder must take other steps to bring the house up to the fire code before the city will grant him a building permit.

If the 6,300-square-foot house is built, it will be the first developed lot on the road, which now contains about 15 vacant lots.

“The hydrant at the entrance of that (development) is running at about 581 gallons a minute,” said Pelham Fire Chief Danny Ray. “Seven hundred fifty gallons per minute is on the design criteria for the city.”

Pelham Revenue Director Mike Morgan said the developer of the lots was given a document notifying them of the lack of sufficient water pressure to supply fire hydrants up to the city’s standards.

“It is noted of record that the development does not have normal or standard fire protection available from the city of Pelham due to the low water pressure and the absence of qualified mains and fire hydrants within the development,” Morgan said, reading the document.

Because the city does not guarantee fire coverage for the development, the builder of each lot on the road must submit plans to bring the houses up to fire code standards before they are granted a building permit, Morgan said.

Plans could include items such as fire suppression sprinkler systems or outdoor swimming pools to act as water reservoirs, said Pelham Fire Marshal Dewitt Marcrum.

“If they come up with a plan to meet the code, we will accept it and recommend it to Mike (Morgan to issue the building permit),” Marcrum said.

Because the Pelham Fire Department is responsible for enforcing the city’s fire code, Council President Mike Dickens said the building permit should be approved only after it is approved by Marcrum.

Morgan said compliance issues with the city’s fire code frequently occur with commercial developments, but he said Oct. 31 was the “first time in 22 years” he had seen an issue with a residential development.