The Vermont Statutes Online
Subchapter 002 : DIVISION OF FIRE SAFETY(Cite as: 20 V.S.A. § 2731)
§ 2731. Rules; inspections; variances
(1) The Commissioner is authorized to adopt rules regarding the construction of buildings, maintenance and operation of premises, and prevention of fires and removal of fire hazards, and to prescribe standards necessary to protect the public, employees, and property against harm arising out of or likely to arise out of fire.
(2)(A) The Commissioner shall require each of the following certificants to complete an education module regarding the State’s energy goals and how each certificant’s specific profession can further those goals:
(i) gas appliance installers, inspectors, and servicers certified under subdivision (c)(4)(C) of this section;
(ii) oil burning equipment installers, inspectors, and servicers certified under subdivision (c)(4)(D) of this section; and
(iii) limited oil burning equipment installers, inspectors, and services certified under subdivision (c)(4)(F) of this section.
(B) The education module shall be not more than two hours and shall be required as a condition of initial certification and certification renewal. The module shall include education on any State or utility incentives relevant to the profession.
(i) The education module for initial certification shall provide general information regarding the State’s energy goals.
(ii) The education module for certification renewal shall provide any updates on the State’s energy goals and any updates regarding corresponding State energy programs applicable to the profession.
(C) The Commissioner shall consider any recommendations on these education modules provided by relevant stakeholders and approve education modules in consultation with the Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Service.
(1) The Commissioner shall conduct inspections of premises to ensure that the rules adopted under this subchapter are being observed and may establish priorities for enforcing these rules and standards based on the relative risks to persons and property from fire of particular types of premises.
(2) The Commissioner may also conduct inspections to ensure that buildings are constructed in accordance with approved plans and drawings.
(c) Fees. The following fire prevention and building code fees are established:
(1) The permit application fee for a construction plan approval shall be based on $8.00 per each $1,000.00 of the total valuation of the construction work proposed to be done for all buildings, but in no event shall the permit application fee exceed $185,000.00 nor be less than $50.00.
(2) When an inspection is required due to the change in use or ownership of a public building, the fee shall be $125.00.
(3) The proof of inspection fee for fire suppression, alarm, detection, and any other fire protection systems shall be $30.00.
(4) Three-year initial certificate of fitness and renewal fees for individuals performing activities related to fire or life safety established under subsection (a) of this section shall be:
(A) Water-based fire protection system design:
(i) Initial certification: $150.00.
(ii) Renewal: $50.00.
(B) Water-based fire protection system installation, maintenance, repair, and testing:
(i) Initial certification: $115.00.
(ii) Renewal: $50.00.
(C) Gas appliance installation, inspection, and service: $60.00.
(D) Oil burning equipment installation, inspection, and service: $60.00.
(E) Fire alarm system inspection and testing: $90.00.
(F) Limited oil burning equipment installation, inspection, and service: $60.00.
(G) Domestic water-based fire protection system installation, maintenance, repair, and testing:
(i) Initial certification: $60.00.
(ii) Renewal: $20.00.
(H) Fixed fire extinguishing system design, installation, inspection, servicing, and recharging:
(i) Initial certification: $60.00.
(ii) Renewal: $20.00.
(I) Emergency generator installation, maintenance, repair, and testing: $30.00.
(J) Chimney and solid fuel burning appliance cleaning, maintenance, and evaluation: $30.00.
(d) Permit processing. The Commissioner shall make all practical efforts to process permits in a prompt manner. The Commissioner shall establish time limits for permit processing as well as procedures and time periods within which to notify applicants whether an application is complete.
(e) Variances; exemptions. Except for any rules requiring the education module regarding the State’s energy goals described in subdivision (a)(2) of this section, the Commissioner may grant variances or exemptions from rules adopted under this subchapter where strict compliance would entail practical difficulty, unnecessary hardship, or is otherwise found unwarranted, provided that:
(1) any such variance or exemption secures the public safety and health;
(2) any petitioner for such a variance or exemption can demonstrate that the methods, means, or practices proposed to be taken in lieu of compliance with the rule or rules provide, in the opinion of the Commissioner, equal protection of the public safety and health as provided by the rule or rules;
(3) the rule or rules from which the variance or exemption is sought has not also been adopted as a rule or standard under 21 V.S.A. chapter 3, subchapters 4 and 5; and
(4) any such variance or exemption does not violate any of the provisions of 26 V.S.A. chapters 3 and 20 or any rules adopted thereunder.
(f) State-funded building energy standards. The Commissioner shall, in State-funded buildings or new additions to State-funded buildings on which construction is begun after June 30, 2001, meet the standards contained in “The Vermont Guidelines for Energy Efficient Commercial Construction” as published in its most recent edition by the Department of Public Service.
(g) Definition. “Publicly funded building” as used in this section means any public building or an addition thereto that is paid for in whole or in part with federal, State, or municipal monies.
(h) Older and historic renovations. A building owner or contractor engaged in an older and historic renovation project may propose innovative, performance-based alternatives in lieu of strict fire and building code compliance. The Commissioner shall consider such alternatives and shall accept those that provide equivalent protection of the public safety and health. A decision to accept or deny a proposed alternative shall be in writing and explain the reasons for accepting or denying the alternative.
(i) Plan reviews.
(1) The Department approves stamped architectural plans by issuing a plan review letter. If, upon final inspection, the Department requires structural changes, additional life safety modifications, or State-mandated accessibility modifications, and the modifications or changes are not the result of design or construction changes by the owner, the owner or architect:
(A) may apply for a variance or exemption as provided in subsection (e) of this section, section 2732 of this title, or 26 V.S.A. § 124; and
(B) if the variance or exemption request is denied, upon the completion of the structural changes or additional life safety, or State-mandated accessibility modifications, as the case may be, may apply to the Commissioner for a reimbursement of some or all of the plan review fee paid for the project.
(2) The decisions of the Commissioner pursuant to this subsection shall be final. The Commissioner shall adopt rules to carry out the provisions of this subsection. This subsection shall not apply to design or construction changes necessary to comply with an alternative method of life safety code or State-mandated accessibility compliance requested by the owner after the plan review.
(j) Detectors. Rules adopted under this section shall require that information written, approved, and distributed by the Commissioner on the type, placement, and installation of photoelectric smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors be conspicuously posted in the retail sales area where the detectors are sold.
(k) Building codes. Pursuant to his or her authority under this section, the Commissioner of Public Safety shall:
(1) Develop and maintain on the Department website a graphic chart or grid depicting categories of construction, including new construction, major rehabilitation, change of use, and additions, and the respective building codes that apply to each category.
(2) Whenever practicable and appropriate, offer the opportunity to construction and design professionals to participate in Division of Fire Safety staff training.
(3) Update building codes on three-year cycles, consistent with codes developed by code-writing authorities, to keep pace with technology, products, and design.
(4) Create a publicly accessible database of decisions that are decided on appeal to the Commissioner.
(l) Energy standard certificates. Provision of a certificate as required by 30 V.S.A. § 51 (residential building energy standards) or 53 (commercial building energy standards) shall be a condition precedent to the issuance of a certificate of use or occupancy for a public building under the rules adopted pursuant to this section.
(m) Refrigerants. No rule adopted under this section or any other requirement of this title shall prohibit or otherwise limit the use of a refrigerant designated as acceptable for use pursuant to and in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 7671k or 10 V.S.A. § 586, provided any equipment containing such refrigerant is listed and installed in accordance with safety standards and use conditions imposed pursuant to such designation. (Added 2003, No. 141 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 1, 2005; amended 2003, No. 122 (Adj. Sess.), § 294aa, eff. April 1, 2005; 2005, No. 72, § 15; 2007, No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. May 29, 2008; 2009, No. 134 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2011, No. 137 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. May 14, 2012; 2013, No. 89, § 5; 2015, No. 149 (Adj. Sess.), § 37; 2017, No. 113 (Adj. Sess.), § 143; 2019, No. 178 (Adj. Sess.), § 34, eff. July 1, 2021; 2021, No. 121 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. July 1, 2022.)