Bellevue residents to grill in protest of ordinance

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Bellevue council overrode a mayoral veto last week to pass a law banning grilling within five feet of homes, porches and other combustible materials. Debate over the law, which also requires residents to obtain one-time open burning permits, continues.

Opponents will gather today to grill hot dogs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of Bellevue Borough Hall -- a culinary challenge to the new law.

The protest will not be the act of civil disobedience Mayor George Doscher called for after council first passed the ordinance, as the grillers have a permit for their gathering.

Mr. Doscher said he hopes the event will send a message to council members who supported the ordinance.

"I want to promote the fact that even though people don't agree with council's actions we can express ourselves freely," he said. "People are going to protest and hold them accountable."

Supporters of the ordinance believe it will promote safety. Council president Linda Woshner said grill fires are a hazard which the council needs to consider.

"It's a shame that they don't see the need for this particular ordinance," she said. "We've had a number of near misses -- one just two weeks ago that was a malfunction of the grill. Without this ordinance, if we see someone being negligent, we can't do anything."

On June 21, a gas grill next to a fence caught fire because of a problem with the line from the grill to the gas tank; the grill was destroyed and the fence damaged.

Ms. Woshner said a borough fire official recommended the law, but declined to name the person.

Opponents described the ordinance as an overreach of legislative power.

"It seemed like it was just beyond the scope of where government should be," said Tom Fodi, who helped promote the event through his website, "Liberty in Bellevue," which he considers a "community action group looking for solutions to overcoming Bellevue's problems."

The "Grill-abration," as organizers are calling it, was the idea of Mr. Doscher and Marty Griffin, a radio host for KDKA, who spoke on the radio with the mayor about the grilling rule. Mr. Griffin will broadcast his program from the event this morning.

Liberty in Bellevue created a Facebook event and posters which feature the tag-line "Bellevue: All Up in Your Grill!" On Facebook, 127 people had said they would attend the event as of Wednesday afternoon.

"We're just gonna have fun at the cost of council's silly vendetta against grills," Mr. Fodi said. Attendees are encouraged to bring grills and food, the event information said. KDKA radio is also providing hot dogs, grilled on a large commercial grill and cold drinks.

Mr. Fodi, 29, said he hoped the event would draw positive attention to Bellevue, where he grew up and recently purchased a home. He started his advocacy website in May after hearing about the proposed grilling restrictions.

"It seemed like just another reason for people to move beyond Bellevue when looking for home," he said, referring to the ordinance.

Ms. Woshner called the response of Liberty in Bellevue and others to the ordinance an "over-reaction." She dismissed Mr. Fodi's negative portrayal of the borough.

"There are so many things going on in Bellevue," she said.

She also took issue with the advocacy style of Mr. Fodi's organization.

"Council has not been nasty to them and they don't have to be nasty to council," she said.

neigh_north

Marcus Schwarz: mschwarz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1964.


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