CREST HILL – City officials said repealing mandatory fire sprinkler systems in new residential housing will help make the city economically competitive again.
However, Lockport Township Fire District officials said the repeal was a mistake. The fire district serves Crest Hill.
In December 2009, the Crest Hill City Council passed Ordinance 1513, which mandated a fire suppression system, or automatic fire sprinklers, be installed in any new residential construction.
On Monday, the city council repealed that ordinance, eliminating the requirement to install fire sprinkler systems and reverting the city’s fire codes back to the 2000 International Fire Code.
Mayor Ray Soliman said he changed his stance on the fire sprinkler mandate and decided to bring the repeal up for a council vote.
“I’ve had a change of heart over the years due to the economic times we live in now,” Soliman said, adding that his goal was to do everything he can for residential and commercial development.
“The fire suppression ordinance has hindered us more than helped us to bring future growth during tough economic times,” he said.
Soliman said that while the ordinance was important for the safety it provided residents, it slowed down growth in the city over the past five years.
Soliman mentioned recent attempts by the City of Chicago and Will County to enact similar fire sprinkler ordinances, but those did not pass.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to pennies,” Soliman said. “Developers were coming before us. They had an opportunity to save $2.50 to $4 per square foot based on residential development elsewhere.”
Lockport Township Fire District Chief David Skoryi advocated against repealing the ordinance.
“We think it’s a mistake,” Skoryi said. “Statistically, more people die in their homes from a fire than anywhere else – shopping centers, McDonald’s. People are dying in the house.”
Skoryi said 76 towns or fire districts in Illinois require residential fire sprinkler systems.
Crest Hill officials “invited us in to share our thoughts with them,” Skoryi said. “They’re voting what they think is best from their perspective. Our view is that Crest Hill was a trendsetter when they passed this. We’re just disappointed they decided to repeal.”