Bellevue burning ordinance sparks debate
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Bellevue Mayor George Doscher said that Tuesday night's approval of a revised burning ordinance by a divided council was a hollow victory for residents who told council they suffer from exposure to too much smoke.
"[The ordinance] is virtually unenforceable, so go ahead and light up your grill and see what happens," he told council after the new law passed, 6-2, with Mark Helbling and Kathy Coder voting no and Frank Camello absent. "I recommend you all try civil disobedience."
Controversial changes to the ordinance, which closely follows the existing county ordinance on burning, includes a passage mandating that grills be located at least 5 feet away from homes and structures.
"I think the part about the grills should have been left out," said Mr. Helbling, who voted against passing the ordinance after making his opinion known during last week's agenda meeting.
After the meeting, Mr. Helbling said that he agreed with the mayor's opinion that it would be extremely difficult for the fire marshall to monitor the location of every grill in the borough.
"Per incidence is the only way it will [be enforced], because it's not a worthwhile effort," Mr. Helbling said, adding that he thinks people should use their own discretion regarding where to place their grills.
Mr. Helbling noted that any other infractions against the law regarding burning would also be enforced per incident, but he does think the ordinance has good intentions. "It may cause people to make a more conscious effort with where and what they're burning," he said.
Another addition to the ordinance mandates that everyone who wants to have backyard fires must first obtain a free permit from the fire marshall.
"I think the permits will give people a sense of responsibility," Mr. Helbling said.
"We're not against open burning," said council President Linda Woshner, noting that the 5-foot distance for grills was taken from Allegheny County's burn ordinance. "We just want you to use the right materials -- clean, dry wood, which emits little smoke -- and not bother the neighbors. Council's goal is to preserve the rights of people who want to burn, as well as residents' rights."
Residents spoke for and against the ordinance at the beginning of the meeting and continued to debate the issue even after the motion was passed.
Correction/Clarification: (Published June 21, 2012) The revised Bellevue burning ordinance was passed 6-2 with Mark Helbling and Kathy Coder voting no. Frank Camello was absent. Councilman Jim Viscusi voted yes. The vote was incorrect in last week's story.
First Published June 14, 2012 5:56 am