Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 14, 2014

Flatwoods revisits burn ordinance

LANA BELLAMY
The Independent

FLATWOODS — Burning small items, such as leaves and tree limbs, may become legal in Flatwoods if the city council’s amendment to the original ordinance passes its second reading.

The first reading, held in a January meeting, passed through the council with the only changes to the strict no-burn policy being the freedom to legally burn small limbs and leaves in a barrel covered with spark arrestors, councilman Ron Fields said. Burning grass clippings will remain illegal.

Fields said it is possible the council will engage in the second reading of the amendment at next meeting on Tuesday, which if approved, will then become law.

Councilman Richard Lewis said him and his colleagues invite residents to join the conversation on Tuesday, voicing either support for the amendment or opposition to change.

He said voices of the public are a vital part of running the city government and can influence the final decision in matter such as this.

“People need to come and express their concerns to the council so we can make the right decision,” he said.” ...[I]f citizens bring their concerns in and don’t want us to change the ordinance, I will vote no, but if they want it changed and revised, I will vote yes.”

Lewis said councilman Ray Sloan brought up the idea to amend the ordinance in December and it has been tabled for several months.

Fields said issues with leaves and limbs being raked into ditches around the city and causing clogs motivated the council to consider the amendment.

Crager said after introducing the amendment, he assigned a committee to research and refine the amendment before the second reading.

Fields said himself, councilmen Rick Lewis and JR Gullett, Fire Chief Brent Dean, City Attorney Steve McGinnis and Crager all sit on the committee, with the mayor as the chair.

Health concerns caused by the smoke are major issues for residents John Brown and Steve Blaine, who helped pass the original ordinance in 2007.

Brown, who said he has breathing problems, said he has had past issues where neighbors would burn leaves and limbs excessively, causing smoke to filter into his house and make him sick.

Fields said the committee is continuing to consider health issues related to burning and hopes that if the amendment is passed, people will “be considerate of those with breathing problems” and use neighborly discretion.

But Blaine is worried the opposite will happen.

“I've had neighbors who had a burn barrel and it just smolders and smokes for hours during the day and all night long. It (burning) drains the quality of life for everyone,” he said.

Both Blaine and Brown agree the quality of air in Flatwoods has improved tremendously since the burn ban was enacted seven years ago and plan to appear at the next council meeting.

In 2007, the city council, along with former Flatwoods Fire Chief Richard Blevins, worked to ban burning throughout the city. The measure came about as a result of health concerns, particularly among the elderly, and the city’s geography making it susceptible to periods of haze during spring and fall months that are caused mainly by smoke from outdoor fires.

According to past reports in The Independent, the second reading of the burn ordinance met opposition from residents advocating for continued burning, but the council thought it in the best interest of the city to push the measure through.

“We feel like we’ve come up with a good ordinance,” Mayor Bobby Crager said in The Independent’s report in 2007, after its first reading.

Blevins is also quoted in a story about on the ordinance’s second reading, saying there were periods in Fall 2006 when the smoke was so heavy, “you would have though the whole city of Flatwoods was on fire.”

The next meeting of the Flatwoods City Council will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of the city building.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.