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Recreational fires ordinance too vague, some residents say

Published May 17. 2013 05:03PM

Since passing a burning ordinance in Rush Township last March restricting open burning in residential areas to the use of "recreational fires," some Rush residents took the opportunity last night to quarrel with the board of supervisors over the definition of what that clause specifically means. The ordinance prohibits burning leaves or brush. That is clear. But where the ordinance becomes vague is in the section about bonfires versus recreational fires. Bonfires are prohibited. Recreational ones are not. So what's the difference?

When the ordinance was passed, supervisors made it clear to those at the meeting that residents are free to have campfires and outdoor wood stoves; however, some were arguing that the language in the ordinance itself is too vague. (The ordinance is posted on the township website

When the board was asked in March what is considered a bonfire, Vice Chairman Robert J. Leibensperger said, "We're not going to be recreational fire police. Use your common sense and judgment." He said the same thing at this month's meeting.

"Is it one story, two stories high?" one resident asked last evening, referring to the height of what might be considered a bonfire.

"What the audience is saying is a legitimate concern, " Solicitor Chris Reidlinger said. "If an ordinance prohibits something, if what is prohibited is so vague as to allow different people to interpret it in different ways, there's a likelihood in a situation like that that a court, with somebody cited under the ordinance before them, may say, 'I can't find somebody guilty of this…It doesn't say what recreational means.'"

The majority of supervisors eventually decided that the ordinance would be revised to identify what a "recreational fire" means. Leibensperger disagrees with the revision, believing it's clear enough to serve its purpose as it is currently written.

In other business, Dyllyn Trexler was appointed as deputy emergency management coordinator. His supervisor said that he has helped out during recent storms and thinks he will do well.

Also, Thomas Klein was appointed to the zoning hearing board, and Michelle Griffiths was appointed as an alternate to that board.

Next, the board announced that at the township's electronic recycling event in April, a total of 8,360 lbs. was collected. The next recycling event will be on July 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Lastly, three motions were passed for the Rush Township Fire Police to assist with upcoming events: on May 27, they will assist with the Tamaqua Memorial Day Parade; on June 15, they will direct traffic during the St. Jerome's Regional School 5K walk; finally, on Aug. 24, they will assist at the 2013 Schuylkill County Firefighters Convention.

The next board of supervisors meeting will be Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.

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