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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 4 years ago

Builders blow back on fiery proposal

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The Lee County town of Estero, Florida's newest municipality, has wasted no time letting everyone know it's one of the most difficult places to do business.

The Lee County town of Estero, Florida's newest municipality, has wasted no time letting everyone know it's one of the most difficult places to do business.

Estero's tough design standards and vocal opposition to new development — even in areas outside its jurisdiction — have cemented the tough reputation.

Now Estero, home to the new Hertz global headquarters, is considering mandating that homebuilders include fire sprinklers in every new home they build, just like commercial buildings. Proponents say the sprinklers will save lives and property.

While no one wishes anyone harm in a house fire, the costs likely outweigh any limited benefits, homebuilders say.

“This devil raised its head in Collier years ago,” says Brenda Talbert-Thomas, executive vice president of the Lee Building Industry Association, noting that no other municipality in Florida has successfully mandated residential fire sprinklers.

A report on mandating residential sprinklers estimates it would cost $1.61 per square foot. In addition, a municipality must provide tax breaks to offset the cost of installing residential sprinklers and provide the water pressure and backflow necessary for sprinkler maintenance.

“There are so many reasons not to do this,” says Talbert-Thomas, who is meeting with city officials to discuss the proposal.

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