In a 5-2 vote, Commissioners Virgil Shockley, James Purnell, Bud Church, Merrill Lockfaw Jr. and Jim Bunting Jr. voted to opt out, while Louise Gulyas and Judy Boggs voted to retain the sprinkler requirement.
Several of the commissioners who voted to opt out said phone calls and e-mails from constituents expressing concern about the price of the sprinkler systems had convinced them opting out was the right choice.
"The majority of my constituents are in favor of the county opting out, and the main reason is economics," Lockfaw said.
He later said the Pocomoke City Fire Department is not in favor of mandating residential fire sprinklers either.
"There is mandate after mandate after mandate," Purnell said. "There are too many mandates."
At a Sept. 21 public hearing, commissioners listened to arguments for adopting the law from Worcester County Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon and the National Fallen Firefighter's Foundation. Real estate agents, developers and some residents spoke against letting the rule go into effect.
After attempts to get a consensus, commissioners were unable to reach a vote on opting out or amending the mandate. The legislation would have taken effect Jan. 1 if commissioners had not voted.
Boggs, who voted against the measure, said it is the responsibility of the government to protect citizens.
"I have been thinking back to the public hearing," Boggs said. "The welfare of residents and life safety would be better served by mandating."
Church said he had brought the item back up because several commissioners asked him to, noting Lockfaw and Bunting were not commissioners during the previous vote. Those two should have the opportunity to vote on the legislation, Church said, because they will represent their constituents when it takes effect.
Even though commissioners have opted the unincorporated areas of Worcester County out of the mandate, new homes with four or more stories, as well as new modular homes, will still be required to install the sprinklers.
In addition to Worcester County, Pocomoke City has opted out of requiring residents to install residential fire sprinklers; Ocean City has let the legislation stand; Berlin has opted out for one-family dwellings; and Snow Hill is scheduled to hold a vote Dec. 28.