Proposed Towamensing ordinances spark discussion at special meeting
As residents waited for a special meeting to discuss ordinances to begin, a consensus of the talk was that a burn ordinance was not wanted.
However, with some changes in the proposal, it became more palatable as the meeting unfolded. Two members of the audience were in favor of anything that would help them.
Supervisor Tom Newman opened by saying the proposal includes that material burned must be generated on the owner's property, burning can be only between sunrise and sunset, an adult must be watching it, the non-emergency communications center number must be called to inform 911, and that the person starting a fire is responsible for the liability if it gets out of control.
The measure also addresses air pollution. Smoke or odors shall not leave the property of the person doing the burning.
There is an agricultural exemption.
The Department of Environmental Protection has a list of what can or cannot be burned taking into account toxicity.
Grills, campfires and other recreational burning are allowed.
On the first violation a notice will be sent, and there will be a fine on the second violation.
In another proposed ordinance, junk cars that are not licensed and are unregistered don't belong on private property with the exemption of historical cars under cover, said Newman.
A distance from a property line should be set for ATV use.
"The basis for all are a lack of courtesy and mutual respect," Newman said as he opened the discussion to the public.
When fire chief Wayne Knirnschild asked how many complaints had been received about burning, Newman replied that there were two.
It was pointed out that someone has been burning toxic substances at the recreation fields and that the enforcement officer will respond to it in the future.
"Why should everyone be restricted for what one or two do? Franklin Township doesn't enforce its burn ordinance," said Knirnschild.
Glenn Beers read from a list of questions from neighbor John Kleintop, who pinyed out it is a rural agricultural setting. After asking what days of the week burning will be allowed he was told there was no restriction on days.
Newman raised the question of how much can be burned at a time, explaining that he drags brush out of his woods and expects to burn it all at one time..
He also wondered if there is a restriction in what can be burned, what is to be done with materials burned, and would the township pick them up?
Newman said the problem is "spite" burning.
Agricultural practices create large piles of materials that are burned and can last for days. Beers said the best times are in rain, snow or with low wind.
"The ordinance that exists should be enforced, not imposing hardship on the rest of the residents," he said.
Cecilia Vassallo said construction waste is hauled in and burned.
"He (her neighbor) is paid to haul and dump it and instead burns it. The DEP said it would take soil samples but never did," she said.
"I had to leave my house twice today because of the smoke," said Steve Kralik.
As far as the noise, he said when a motorcycle goes past his house the sound is so loud it vibrates the windows.
Vassallo wondered why there could not be an ordinance affecting residential communities and not farming areas.
Resident Guy Seifert feels a burning ordinance is not valid but he appreciates the problems some people have.
He suggested that burning only be permitted at least 100 feet from a property line and that residents who do not have room to burn 100 feet from the property line should get permits. The township can revoke a permit if burning is not done within DEP guidelines. The permits would have to be open ended. One-time permits would become an administrative nightmare.
Seifert agrees with the liability issue.
David Zacharias said that, if someone calls, the township can check if there is a permit.
Resident Roy Christman asked if a total ban on household burning was considered. Between recycling and garbage pickup it should not be necessary.
Supervisor Penny Kleintop said recycling could take care of most of the things that should not be burned such as plastics, oil, tires for $2, cardboard, newspapers. In the cases of building or remodeling, it was urged to get a dumpster.
"Most residents are good citizens but there have been a lot of calls. Every once in a while someone will dig in his heels and contact a lawyer," said Kleintop.
"We have a junk ordinance. Maybe that should be strengthened rather than replaced," said Seifert, who also asked how it could be regulated.
Newman said a property maintenance ordinance could be used because it is more actionable. He gave an example of one place where three stripped cars sit next to a neighbor's expensive house, dripping trace elements into the ground.
Getting the definition of a junk car right is a first step in the problem..
"They can be given to charity," said Kleintop.
Seifert said something that has to be addressed is buildings that should be condemned.
Newman said the meeting was just to gather information.