Council May Nix Open Burning Ban
Ann Hinch knoxnews.com on 1/26/2007
If Lenoir City council enacts anything against open burning, it'll
likely be a resolution upholding existing state regulations, which do
not expressly prohibit burning to clear for multi-dwelling or commercial
In May 2006, Loudon County commission passed an ordinance banning open
burning for anything other than agriculture or personal use on one's own
residential property. But this does not regulate activity within cities'
Commission adopted its ordinance at the recommendation of Loudon County
Air Quality Task Force. Last summer, task force members asked the
municipalities to adopt similar bans to cut down on smoke and
fine-particulate pollution produced from large-scale wood burning.
In Lenoir City, Mayor Matt Brookshire has seemed to favor a ban,
which would require developers to dispose of wood waste in other ways,
such as chipping. The task force's proposed ordinance would not prevent
a resident from burning one or two felled trees, providing they obtain a
permit from the fire department.
"When it's considered clearing or burning for development purposes,
that's what (the ban) means," Brookshire told council at a Jan. 15
Councilman Mike Henline viewed the ordinance as a perceived
penalty for developers, and Councilman Eddie Simpson explained it
costs about twice as much, or $10,000 per acre, to clear woodland
"I don't want pollution; I really don't," he said. "But I want to work
with everyone ... developers, and residents, and farmers."
Though council can't officially vote at workshop, consensus seemed to
favor removing the section of the proposed ordinance that would ban
burning for development.
"The only reason this ordinance is written is because of (that section),
for land development," Brookshire countered, adding there are residents
concerned about cutting down air pollution. "Are we not letting them
down by not trying to address that?"
The proposed ban was not on council's Jan. 22 agenda, but resident
Brian Hendricks spoke in favor anyway. "My vote would be to ban open
burning 100 percent," he said. "It's not going to slow down development
in Lenoir City."
He added a friend coaches youth soccer and that half the children on his
team have inhalers, perhaps owing to poor local air quality. He
reiterated Lenoir City's attractions and said developers would not be
deterred by a no-burn rule.
In the county itself, at least one resident is less than impressed with
ordinance enforcement. Pat Hunter of Clean Air Friends/Clean Air
Kids has reported numerous instances of open burning and alleges the
perpetrators are not being fined.
"Loudon County has, in essence, passed an open burning ban that isn't
being enforced," she stated. "I have received numerous phone calls from
county residents, and they tell me that (building commissioner) Bill
Cox and the codes enforcement officers go to the development site,
but the burning continues on."
Cox, who just recently began keeping records of complaints, estimated
since May he has received calls about perhaps 10 separate instances of
burning, including two cases in which it was legally permitted.
In addition, there have been times when he or someone from his office
has noticed an unreported fire and checked on it. For every complaint,
he said he or a building inspector has gone to the site and given a
verbal warning about the new ordinance.
"In all cases so far, that's as far as it's had to go," he said, adding
he knows of no repeat offenders. "I believe in most cases, they just
didn't know they weren't supposed to, and when they (were told not to),
they were very cooperative about putting it out."
Cox added he doesn't have the authority to write citations - such
matters would have to go to court. He intends to continue with verbal
warnings on first-time offenses, but said he would alert the proper
authorities to cite repeat offenders.
Hunter alleges at least one site, the Saddlebrook development near
Lenoir City, has continued burning when it should not. Cox said the
property is inside city limits, but according to Lenoir City tax records
and Codes Enforcement Officer DeAnn Bogus, it is not.
Council is likely to consider the matter at its Feb. 12 meeting, at 7
p.m. at city hall.