Waging a successful fight in Bloomington

Illinois REALTOR® Magazine | July 2012

RVOICE efforts critical to success of fire sprinkler issue in Bloomington

By Mike Scobey  |  Assistant Director, Advocacy and Local Issues

Want to see a casebook example of how RVOICE fights for REALTORS®’ livelihoods?

Look no further than a successful battle to keep Bloomington from mandating fire sprinklers in all new residential construction.

On one side you had city officials and representatives of the sprinkler industry who passionately argued that the code changes would save lives. One the other side, you had RVOICE, local REALTORS® and homebuilders providing the facts that ultimately trumped the rhetoric.

Here’s what happened:

The debate: The code change would have mandated the installation of fire sprinklers in new construction. The move would have added thousands of dollars in up-front construction costs that would have been passed on to the homebuyer, and perhaps thousands more over the life of the system as maintenance and testing costs were added in. Because newer construction is already much safer than that of homes built decades ago, fire death rates likely wouldn’t change much, research suggests.

The fight: Despite a strong push, REALTORS® and homebuilders in Bloomington successfully persuaded the Bloomington’s Building Construction Board of Appeals and ultimately the Bloomington City Council (in January) to reject a proposed mandatory fire sprinkler requirement for all new homes. Instead, they recommended the one-year implementation, of the REALTOR®-supported “Mandatory Offer” plan. This means builders will be required to make the offer of sprinkler installation to prospective buyers, but don’t have to arbitrarily include them in construction unless the buyer wants the system.

What’s significant about this victory? Rejection of the Bloomington fire sprinkler mandate in this way represents the first time in recent memory when this public body did not automatically adopt a building code recommendation from city staff.

How did this win happen? This was a significant victory for REALTORS, new home owners/buyers and builders. It would not have occurred without a strong, RVOICE-funded grassroots campaign that included: a direct mail piece sent to voters; the creation of a website; more than 6,500 live and automated phone calls; and member mobilization. All of this was directed to various community leaders and key political figures.

The intent of the RVOICE campaign was to persuade decision-makers and the public to reject the sprinkler mandate and instead support the “Mandatory Offer” policy. Complimenting this overall effort was an RVOICE-funded public opinion survey which showed that the sprinkler mandate was not popular with the public in central Illinois.

This effort shows that when we need to take our case to the public, we’ve got the ability to do so and get the job done.

RVOICE in Your Community

The fight against sprinklers in Bloomington is one of many that RVOICE is involved in. Examples of other notable victories this year in Illinois include:

  • In April, REALTORS® objected to a proposed fee in Steger that had to be paid when placing a For Sale sign on private property. RVOICE funded the legal analysis which helped state our objections to this policy on constitutional grounds. The fee was dropped from consideration by the Village Board.
  • In March, RVoice worked to defeat Home Rule referenda that appeared on Primary Election ballots in five municipalities. Direct mail pieces were sent to voters in these towns to explain the Home Rule. REALTORS® have valid concerns about home rule authority which could give the power to create point-of-sale and point-of-rental inspection programs, sprinkler installation mandates and transfer fees.
  • In 2011, RVoice funded an independent study which examined the economic impact of a home sale in Illinois. These effects are the result of expenditures made by the buyer and seller in relation to the transaction. This study (which can be seen in full at www.illinoisrealtor.org/economicimpact) has been helpful to our local GADs when they make the case that proposed regulations should not impede the housing market and, in turn, slow down recovery of local economies.  

The Illinois Association of REALTORS® is the Voice for Real Estate in Illinois. RVOICE is our megaphone. 

Breakout Text: 

RVOICE Working for You

RVOICE (formerly known as the Advocacy Program) was launched in 2006 to go beyond the direct lobbying that is done by our Statehouse lobbyists and local Government Affairs Directors (GADs). RVoice personnel use every possible strategy to best represent REALTORS® and property owners in the public policy arena.
Here are some examples of the resources that are available to us when we fight on your behalf:

  • Independent Research
  • Legal Analyses
  • Public Opinion Surveys
  • Voter Outreach
  • Grassroots Mobilization of Members

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