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Local News

Lockport to require sprinkler systems for new commercial buildings

Former alderman questions proposed ward map

Shaw Media file photo
Shaw Media file photo

The Lockport City Council Wednesday night approved a new ordinance that will require all new commercial buildings to install sprinkler systems.

Currently the city’s code requires this for buildings 5000 square feet and larger. With the new ordinance starting July 1, all new commercial buildings will need to have a sprinkler system as part of their plans.

The council has been split on the issue, with Mayor Steven Streit and Alderman Darren Deskin supporting the idea that the use of the building should dictate the requirement, as stated by the 2015 International Building Code.

However, since the city has a current requirement of 5000 square feet, which Deskin said is “an arbitrary number,” they recommended keeping it the same.

“There is a big difference between a Brazilian Steakhouse with an open fire” and a building housing “a graphic artist and a chiropractor’s office,” Deskin said.

Deskin and council members Christina Bergbower and JR Gillogly voted against the amended ordinance.

Council members Catherine Perretta, Joanne Bartelsen, Mark Lobes, Jim Petrakos and Renee Saban voted yes.

“(In) a commercial building, you’re going to have people coming in and out or possibly staying for a certain amount of time,” Bartelsen said. “My concern is that if something happens, there is no way that fire will be contained because it’s under 5000 (square feet).”

The new ordinance also requires that all new two-family dwellings and townhomes be fitted with sprinklers. The city’s current code only required this for multitenant buildings with three or more units.

The city council also reaffirmed a previous vote on a new ward map that will go into effect in April 2020. This was a procedural issue, and no discussion took place.

However, last week former Alderman Kelly Turner reached out to The Herald-News with concerns that the city approved a new map for “cosmetic reasons.”

Turner was concerned the city council did not consider state statutes, which he said require that a new ward map be redrawn only after the results of a decennial census necessitate the changes. The next federal census is in 2020.

He was also concerned that the new ward map does not evenly divide the city’s population among wards.

When the city worked on the previous maps, the goal was to “try to get maps as equal as you can” because “they (should be) based on population, not what looks pretty on a map,” Turner said.

City Attorney Sonni Williams said the city is following the state statute, which includes a provision that allows a map to be changed “for any other reason” other than a census result that requires redistricting.

The city had also conducted a special census in 2017, which did show the population increased by at least 544 people.

“We’re redistricting under ‘or for any other reason,’ and the results from a special census would be considered ‘for other reason,’” Williams said.

According to Illinois’ redistricting law, population in city wards “shall be as nearly equal … as practicable.” However, there is no specific language as to what disparity would or would not be acceptable.

With the new map, the difference between the largest and smallest ward populations would be about 2248 in 2019 compared to 813 in 2012.

“We are talking about only 1,435 people city-wide in difference from 2012 to 2019,” City Administrator Ben Benson said. “With over 25,383 residents, that’s only about (5.65 percent) difference.”

“I think what we proposed holds up under scrutiny of reasonable, practical and ‘nearly equal,’ especially at 5 percent difference over 25,000 people,” he said.

Ward 1 — which will have the smallest population on the new map, as it did on the 2012 map — is where the city anticipates the most future population growth.

A 240-unit apartment complex is under construction currently, while a number of other properties are also being considered for large residential developments, Benson said.

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