Dorchester Star

CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester County Council approved a tax credit for residential sprinkler systems at the regular session meeting on Tuesday, July 6.

The tax credit of up to $5,000 will aid new homeowners with the financial burden incurred by the state mandated requirement for fire protection sprinkler systems in new residential properties.

Homes constructed between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2019 with a complete automatic fire protection sprinkler system will be eligible to receive the credit against the property taxes.

“A tax credit for newly constructed homes with sprinklers would be extremely helpful to buyers,” said Joan Strang, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Maryland Building Industry Association. “This tax would help us to come back and provide housing for first-time homebuyers who have been closed out of the building industry since the requirement is now that we must install sprinklers in new construction.”

Maryland’s fire sprinkler mandate became an issue that several Eastern Shore lawmakers eyed during the 2016 Maryland General Assembly. As of July 1, all new one- and two-family residential homes built in Maryland must have fire sprinklers installed.

Del. Christopher Adams, R-37B-Wicomico, filed a bill that would have allowed counties to opt out of the mandate, but the bill was defeated after firefighting professionals around the state heavily lobbied against it.

Adams argued the mandate was costly for rural areas with no public water access where homes rely on wells. But those against Adams’ bill said fire sprinklers are necessary to save lives in the event of a fire.

“The cost is more than most first-time homebuyers can afford,” Strang said. “This tax credit would help them tremendously and give us an opportunity to hopefully turn around this recession and bring the building industry back in Dorchester County.”

Having been a firefighter, councilman Don Satterfield spoke to both sides of the residential sprinkler requirement, understanding the importance of both officer safety and the cost of these systems to homeowners.

“Having the ability to provide the tax credit for citizens who are first-time homebuilders is almost a must for us in Dorchester County,” Satterfield said.

“Any time government at any level can lower the tax burden on people, especially that want to build new homes, it’s a good thing,” said Councilman Rick Price.

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