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City considers fire-pit policy

December 21, 2010
By AMANDA WHISTLE, The Leader-Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - City officials are considering regulations and permit requirements for recreational fire pits.

The majority of city council members last week said they want to make changes to the proposed law.

The measure didn't make it past the Common Council's work session last week.

The council voted 4-3 against scheduling a public hearing for Dec. 28.

Councilman-at-Large James Robinson, 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, 2nd Ward Councilman John Castiglione and 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio voted against scheduling the hearing.

Third Ward Councilman Donald Ambrosino, 5th Ward Councilman Jay Zarrelli and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jean Chain, who introduced the proposal, voted for a hearing.

Fact Box

Highlights of the proposed regulations:

No fires permitted between midnight and 7 a.m.

Only seasoned hardwood shall be permitted to be burned in any outdoor fire pit.

Applications for permits shall be made to the Gloversville Fire Department and include contact information, a description of the fire pit and area it is located on the property

Anyone without a permit would be burning illegally and subject to a $100 fine for the first offense within the same calendar year and a $250 fine for the second offense, and a $350 fine/15 days in jail for the third offense.

The law would establish regulations in the city for outdoor burning and require residents to buy permits for fire pits.

A resolution establishing the cost of the permit would be adopted after approval of the law. Chain said she was considering a $25 yearly fee.

City Fire Department Capt. Brandt Minkler said he thought the law would be a helpful tool to help the Fire Department clamp down on irresponsible burning. He called the measure a "mechanism for responsible recreation."

"Hopefully, we'll have some teeth to deal with people who are not following the law," Minkler said.

Chain said people are already burning things; the city allows recreational fires for food preparation.

The law also would restrict the types of materials that can be burned. She said in her ward she's even had instances where people are burning furniture.

"Whether we pass it or not, people are still going to burn," Chain said.

Residents who neglect to buy the permits would be charged fines as high as $350 and face 15 days in jail for more than three offenses.

Chain said if 1,000 of the more than 6,000 residences in the city purchased the $25 yearly permits, the city would bring in $25,000.

Councilman-at-Large James Robinson said he voted against moving the local law forward because he wanted additional information written into the law that outlined the size requirements of fire pits.

Chain said state regulations dictate the maximum size of a fire pit, which can be 3 feet in diameter.

Robinson said the issue concerned him because he worked to ensure people could still have fires for cooking outside for roasting marshmallows or hot dogs.

First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said she was concerned people would be encouraged to burn if the city officially allows fire pits with permits.

"I think the city is too small for this," she said. "It'd be like a camp site."

City Attorney Matthew Trainor said recreational fires now are minimally regulated.

"If they have a hot dog on it, they can do it now," Trainor said.

He said if people are concerned some areas are too densely populated for fires, the council could choose not to allow fire pits in those areas.

"What I'm concerned about is the amount of space between houses and property lines," Wentworth said.

She said she was open to revisiting the idea before summer, and Chain said she would make changes to the law as requested by council members. She hoped to bring it up at the Dec. 28 business meeting. The meeting will be the last of her term.

In May 2009, the city of Johnstown decided to allow residents to apply for permits for recreational fires.



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