St. Mary’s residents call for easing rules on small pools -- Gazette.Net



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Pool owners in Piney Point and other sections of St. Mary’s County said local regulations on smaller aboveground pools are excessive at a public forum hosted by the county commissioners Tuesday evening.

One-time permits from the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management are required for pools with a water depth of 24 inches or more, and a barrier must be 48 inches to prevent children from falling into a pool. The regulations stem from the International Residential Code, and were first adopted by St. Mary’s County in 1990.

Donald Guy of Piney Point said he was told his quarter-acre lot was too small for a $300 pool that he bought. His yard is also in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, within 1,000 feet of tidal waters, adding further restrictions on it. After an inspection was made on several aboveground pools in the area, Guy said he was facing fines of $400 a day from the county office of land use and growth management. “I already took my pool down and got rid of it, too,” he said. “So now my kids’ summer is ruined.”

With jellyfish and possibly sharks out in the Potomac River, “who knows what’s going to happen” for swimmers there, he said.

Tonia Reppe has 6 acres in Scotland and looked to buy a $500 pool until she found out about the permit and the requirement for a master electrician to pass inspection. She said she was just looking for an inexpensive swimming pool for the family. “We don’t have much to do down there — let’s be honest,” she said.

“The law’s kind of ridiculous,” said Wayne Henderson of Piney Point. “Maybe we need to re-evaluate this law for smaller pools.”

Commission President Jack Russell (D) said a renter of his was also cited for a pool that needed a permit in Piney Point. “The issue is going to be revisited,” he said.

The commissioners will be re-evaluating the local regulations as part of the International Residential Code update in September or October, said Phil Shire, director of land use and growth management.

“We’ve never had an issue with pools in St. Mary’s County,” said Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R). He asked if land use and growth management went out seeking pools without permits, as some residents said the department’s inspectors did.

“We do not have a pool task force out looking for problems,” Shire said. The inspections were made based on a single citizen’s complaint about several properties, he said.

There were 35 pools found out of compliance this summer. For about 10 that are still out of compliance, there will be an extension until the local regulations are updated, Shire said Thursday.

“We want to make this right for our communities,” Russell said at the forum.

“We need to clarify this. This is not fun for us,” Shire said at the forum.

Some jurisdictions exempt what are called “storable pools” from permits, he said.

Permits could still be required for in-ground and traditional aboveground pools, he said.

jbabcock@somdnews.com