| The touchy debate over whether fire sprinklers should be required in more Menlo Park homes will resurface at a City Council study session scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center, between Laurel and Alma streets.
The council will discuss an ordinance proposed by Menlo Park Fire Protection District officials that would require sprinklers in the following cases:
-- New single-family homes of more than 1,000 square feet.
-- Homes where more than 50 percent of the structure is to be remodeled.
-- All planned buildings with a basement of more than 250 square feet.
The ordinance would not apply to existing homes, unless they underwent a major remodel. Sprinklers are already required in most new commercial buildings and multi-family homes.
Since the Sept. 11 discussion is a study session, the council will not vote on the ordinance, but could decide to schedule the matter for an upcoming meeting.
Although similar ordinances have been adopted in East Palo Alto and Atherton, the sprinkler debate has proven particularly contentious in Menlo Park.
Fire district officials say sprinklers save the lives of residents and firefighters, but some residents and developers have argued that high installation costs and potential water damage outweigh the safety benefits.
In 2004 and 2005, fire district officials pushed the council to adopt the ordinance, but then-council members Lee Duboc, Nicholas Jellins and Mickie Winkler opposed the changes.
After the three council members left office in December, fire district officials urged the new council to take another look at the ordinance.
"This is going to be a preliminary discussion," said Mayor Kelly Fergusson, who has supported stricter sprinkler guidelines in the past. "If we want to really consider additional fire sprinkler guidelines -- and that's a big if -- we need to consider how expensive it could be for builders and homeowners."
Councilman Andy Cohen said sprinklers should be required in remodeled homes that add a basement, but wasn't sure about other situations.
Councilman John Boyle said he will go into the meeting with "an open mind," but acknowledged he's "nervous" that a sprinkler ordinance might make it too costly for residents to remodel homes.
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