Williamsfield considering rules for burning

For The Weekly Post

WILLIAMSFIELD – Public nuisances in Williamsfield have become a burning issue. A smoky one, too.

Residents setting fire as desired to debris and other items outdoors on their properties has the Williamsfield Village Board considering changes to its nuisance ordinance, community officials said. Specificity is necessary about what can burned and when, in their view.

“Some people want to burn every day,” Williamsfield Police Chief James Robertson said. “Usually, it’s just shrubs or material from their yards. Occasionally, someone wants to burn furniture or treated material that has chemicals in it.”

The frequency and content of one Billtown resident’s burns was a prime topic of Village Board discussion during its meeting last week. Objections from neighbors have been numerous, according to Trustee Julie Van Dran.

“He has a perpetual fire burning all the time,” she said. “(They) never can hang anything for their wash. I’ve had several complaints of ‘We can’t sit outside.’”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited the offending resident, Van Dran said. But at least three local properties appear to be contributing to the pyromania problem, according to Village President Matt Tonkin. Nice weather exacerbates the burning.

“There’s one at the moment that’s driving everyone nuts, but that’s because he’s late to the game,” Tonkin said about the resident Van Dran mentioned. “The other two, usually it’s their spring cleanup, when they drag in cars and stuff and start burning. It’s amazing.”

Robertson suggested the problem isn’t necessarily constant but tends to become obvious in a when-it-rains-it-pours fashion.

Only one sentence in the village’s current nuisance ordinance addresses burning, according to Tonkin. It isn’t all that definitive, apparently. When asked about the sentence last week, Tonkin said he couldn’t remember what it was.

Robertson said nearby communities might offer Billtown a template. Galva, for example, allows outdoor burning only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“Days with a ‘T,’” Robertson said.

Limiting outdoor burning to certain hours on such days also might be an option, according to Tonkin. So might be augmenting the nuisance ordinance with EPA recommendations regarding what’s safe to burn.

“Having something more specific on the books would be better,” Tonkin said. “Because otherwise, it’s kind of a question: ‘Well, is it really a nuisance? It doesn’t smell that bad.’”

The outdoor-burning season is ending, so immediate action isn’t likely, Tonkin suggested. He said he’d like to see the nuisance ordinance amended sometime this year, but before next spring at the latest.

According to Van Dran, the constituents who have contacted her would appreciate it.

“That’s all they’re asking for – set some parameters,” Van Dran said.