Town Council to re-examine idea in December
Concerned citizens could use the proposed burning ordinance as a way to attack their neighbors, the Weddington Town Council tabled the idea during their Monday, Nov. 8, meeting.
Council member Werner Thomisser brought forth the proposal as a way to address what he saw as safety concerns regarding open burning. The measure, as he presented it, would have required a fire extinguisher, bucket of sand or water hose on hand at all times while a fire is burning. Also, residents would have to monitor the situation.
Grass, weeds, tree trimmings, prunings and other vegetation were acceptable, but the ordinance would have prohibited burning trash, construction debris or toxic materials such as insulation. The only exception to that would be farms, due to cases of infestation.
“This is a safe burning practice ordinance, ” Thomisser said. “Fifty percent of all wildfires are caused by unsafe burning. What (this ordinance) asks you to do is feed a fire gradually and pay attention.”
The controversy came, however, in another part of the ordinance, allowing only recreational burning and at least 50 feet from any house. The ordinance left to recreational burning open to interpretation.
“Explain to me the difference (in this ordinance) between open burning and what you consider a recreational fire, ” Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry said. “I think we end up with something that becomes unenforceable.”
Without clear definitions, Barry said, the town would risk having neighbors reporting each other to the sheriff’s office. Then as the deputies arrived, the offending party would just have to throw a hot dog on the fire and claim it was recreational.
“I’m all for preventing a hazard, but we’re not defining it clear enough, ” Barry said.
Former Providence Fire Chief David Banick gave testimony to the council that open burning hasn’t been a major issue in the town. In the past year, the department responded to two such fires, just down from town hall in the 6000 block of Weddington Matthews Road. Each of the fires were started from construction debris.
“The only thing I ask is, put some type of enforcement in (the ordinance), ” Banick told the council. “Don’t give (the fire department) something they can’t use.”
Other residents told the council they didn’t feel an ordinance is needed.
“Weddington is still a rural town, ” Weddington resident Kent Hayes said. Hayes, who lives in Providence Woods South, said he didn’t see the point. “My neighbors and I use burning to control yard waste. It is not necessary for the town to tell its citizens to be responsible.”
Michael Davis has been a Weddington resident for 32 years and also uses burning to keep the trimmings down.
“I guess our choice comes down to either you let the stuff accumulate, buy an expensive (wood) chipper or haul it off (if this is passed), ” Davis said.
The town planning board rejected the ordinance, state statutes more than address the issue.
“The fact is we really don’t have a history of these calls being prevalent, ” Planning Board member Jeff Perryman said.
While the council rejected that ordinance, council members asked Barry to tweak it, eliminating some of the concerns and bring a revised version to the December meeting for consideration.