Concerns of a group of local businessmen upset over the wording of a ballot referendum regarding sprinkler requirements are so much smoke, according to Payson Fire Chief John Ross.
Wording of the proposition, which will appear on the March 12 primary election ballot for the Town of Payson, was limited to 50 words, Ross said.
"We tried to capture the essence of the amendments," the fire chief said. "But it is a complex issue and the well-informed voter will need to do some reading on the subject."
Local commercial Realtor Bob McQueen and others in the group believe the wording is intentionally misleading and will hurt the group's chances to defeat the proposed changes.
"The public is so uninformed and misinformed, and the ballot (wording) doesn't tell you anything," McQueen said.
At issue is the fact that the proposition as it will appear on the ballot does not specifically mention that existing homes that are increased by 40 percent to a size greater than 3,000 square feet would have to be sprinklered. Instead, the wording refers to "certain existing buildings expanding over 40 percent in size."
McQueen said that local Realtor Bob Flibotte, who is also chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, will probably ask the town council at its Feb. 14 meeting to pull the item from the ballot.
"They probably won't do that, but at the very least, information needs to get out so people know what a 'no' vote means and what a 'yes' vote means," McQueen said.
The item was placed on the ballot as the result of a petition circulated by the group to which McQueen belongs. They believe the code changes, which also require automatic sprinklers for all new buildings of 3,000 square feet or larger, will add unreasonable costs to both new construction and renovation projects.
A similar requirement exists on new home construction, in effect since 1998, and that ordinance is not at issue.
"Sixty-some homes have been built with sprinklers since then," Ross said.
Ross defends sprinkler systems and the ballot proposition that will, if passed, increase their use.
"Fire sprinklers are the first line of defense for any fire department," he said. "Buildings of more than 3,000 square feet are special challenges, and 94 percent of the time, sprinklers work."
Besides, Ross said, the referendum may soon be a moot point. "Those changes are amendments to the 1997 fire code, and we are now working on the 2000 International Fire Code," he said. "They are updated about every three years, and everything will be back on the table again."
Watch for more information in future issues of the Roundup.