While his Warwick company’s projects are residential, StormTite Home Improvement owner Ed Ladouceur has priced enough fire-protection systems to know how expensive meeting Rhode Island’s fire codes can be for owners of small commercial properties.
A mandatory alarm panel that dials out to the local fire department, for example, runs $5,600, Ladouceur said, and then there are the lighted exit signs, battery backups and other equipment that taken together can cost a building owner over five figures to make a space compliant to rent.
“The restrictions are way over the
top and very costly to implement,” said Ladouceur, a former Rhode Island Builder’s Association president. “And we are talking about businesses where no one is sleeping, no nightclubs with kitchens or drinking, just office space for an accountant or attorney.”
Rhode Island’s tough fire code is just one of the regulations that many blame for making the state an expensive place to operate and one with a reputation for hostility to businesses.
As they have in previous years, business groups and state lawmakers this season have launched a number of efforts aimed at simplifying and easing some regulations, especially on property owners, they hope will encourage growth and stimulate the economy.
An example is the “Making It Easy to Do Business” package of bills filed in the Senate and endorsed by Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed this winter that target permitting, regulations and job training.
One proposal in the package would create a statewide, electronic, building-permit application system intended to take some of the inconsistency and guess-work out of the current town-by-town system.
“This would help [create] less time doing paperwork by having a uniform system with everyone on the same sheet of music,” said Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, D- South Kingstown, the bill’s sponsor. “I have heard from a lot of businesspeople who say that there are varying amounts of time it takes to work through the application process and that it can be a difficult process to understand. This gets the ball rolling quicker.”