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JANUARY 18, 2005
PRESENT: Trustee Wilbrink; Treasurer LeBlanc; Trustee Wright; Supervisor Martin; Clerk Zaban.
CALL TO ORDER: Supervisor Martin called the meeting to order at 5:00 pm and reviewed the agenda.
BURN PETITION: Supervisor Martin reviewed the steps taken to date regarding the review and consideration of the Pebblebrook Burn Petition. Supervisor Martin also met with Donald Pixley, Township Insurance Representative, to review any liability issues. It was determined that the Township would not be liable for any personal lose loss to homeowners. Vince Spagnuolo, Township Legal Counsel, confirmed that the Township would only be responsible for issuing and enforcing the burn ordinance. The Township would not be liable for any personal loses under the governmental immunity laws.
Supervisor Martin then opened the floor for any additional discussion:
Gary Gillespie—4701 Jadestone: Asked if personal homeowner insurance rates would increase if the burning ban were lifted? Supervisor Martin responded that homeowner insurance is an individual homeowner responsibility and that those type of questions should be directed to their insurance carriers.
George Durak—116 Feldspar Dr.: Asked what would happen if the person who caused the fire had no homeowner’s insurance? Township Legal Counsel responded that it would be the responsibility of the victim to seek legal action against those persons for negligence. Mr. Durak also asked if the Township would require proof of homeowner’s insurance when issuing burn permits? Currently, the burn ordinance does not require proof of homeowner’s insurance. If proof were required, the burn ordinance would need to be amended.
Supervisor Martin reviewed the Meeting Summary Recommendations. It was noted that a NIESA representative was present at the meeting and the recommendations would be satisfactory to NIESA. Two concerns not addressed were severe respiratory problems and Township-wide burn ordinance enforcement.
Supervisor Martin again opened the floor to discussion regarding the Meeting Summary Recommendations:
Mr. Gillespie asked if the Township had setback requirements for wooded areas? Supervisor Martin indicated that the current ordinance addresses setbacks for wooded areas.
Clerk Zaban asked if a fee for inspecting fire pits could be imposed. Supervisor Martin indicated that the Constable is paid $35 for each call he is sent out on. Treasurer LeBlanc asked if NIESA could conduct the inspections in lieu of a fee? Clerk Zaban indicated that NIESA does not inspect in their own jurisdiction and he was doubtful that they would conduct the inspections in Williamstown Township.
Mr. Durak asked if the nuisance ordinance could be enforced in areas where someone has respiratory problems. Legal Counsel responded that the nuisance ordinance could be enforced if there was a violation. However, if a burn permit is issued then the fire is permitted and it would likely not violate the nuisance ordinance.
Mr. Meadows asked how the ordinance would be enforced. Legal counsel indicated that enforcement would be through the burn ordinance.
Supervisor Martin asked the Board if they were ready to propose a motion regarding the Pebblebrook Burn Ordinance Petition. Trustee Wilbrink, Trustee Wright and Clerk Zaban were in favor of moving forward. However, Trustee Wright had concerns regarding the number of restrictions recommended. He suggested that burn permits be limited to Friday, Saturday and Sunday and if there is a reported problem, then the restrictions should be enforced. To enforce the restrictions at the time of the burn permit request may not be in the best interest of the Township. Supervisor Martin questioned the Friday, Saturday, Sunday limitation because that might create a heavy concentration of fire smoke. Mr. Durak agreed. Supervisor Martin indicated that typically campfire requests are for one day. Treasurer LeBlanc felt the enforcement of a one-time inspection is important because the spark arrestor could be checked on chimenea type devices. Trustee Wilbrink felt the one time inspection with a fee is ok, but what if the fire device is changed? It was also questioned if the numbers of burn permits issued for Pebblebrook could be limited per day. Supervisor Martin indicated that limiting burn permits would be difficult.
In conclusion, it was decided that Supervisor Martin would investigate and recommend inspections fees for the Board to consider. Supervisor Martin asked if there was any other information the Board would need to move forward with a motion. Trustee Wilbrink would also like a recommendation for violation fines and fees. Supervisor Martin indicated that she would recommend using the current ordinance procedures. Trustee Wilbrink asked that seasoned firewood be removed. Trustee Wright indicated that a lot of the recommended restrictions are already in our ordinance and their burn permits should be as similar to our current ordinance as possible.
Heather DeRath—4708 Sandstone: Indicated that people who signed the petition did not know they were signing a petition that had a cost attached to it. The goal behind the petition was to give opportunity to families to enjoy a few fires per year. Limiting the number of fires would be fine. Treasurer LeBlanc felt that the use of campfires may diminish over time as the initial novelty of allowing campfires diminishes.