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Neighbor’s fires make Waubeka man burning mad PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Morton   
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 20:48

Town to discuss better enforcement of ordinance

Pat Harrier has a picnic table outside his Cigrand Drive auto-repair business that is white.

Well, it’s sometimes white.

“Often times it’s covered black with soot,” he said. “You’d never know it was white.”

It’s one of many signs, Harrier said, that his neighbor’s backyard fires rage too large and too close.

“I’ll walk in the shop and think it’s on fire, because of all the smoke,” he said. “And one day, a woman from up the street came running down, wondering if all of Waubeka was on fire.”

On May 3, the Town of Fredonia Plan Commission discussed Harrier’s situation and decided it was time to take a closer look at its burning ordinance. The town governs Waubeka, an unincorporated village within its boundaries.

“I’m tired of getting calls on this,” Town Chairman Richard Mueller said. “We discussed this years ago and gave up on it because it’s difficult to enforce. But I do think it is time to start enforcing the rules.”

Here’s what they are, according to the town’s ordinance: Burning can only take place in an enclosed container — most commonly known as a burn barrel — that must include a mesh-like cover. It can’t take place closer than 25 feet of a structure and the burning of garbage, rubber, dirty rags and wet paper is prohibited.

Fines for a first offense start at $10 and for a second offense it’s as high as $200.

“Any board member can issue a citation,” Mueller reminded his fellow officials, “and we might just have to start doing it.”

What isn’t in play, Mueller said, is any notion that outdoor burning require a permit or be banned altogether.

“We don’t want to charge people or anything like that,” he said. “A guy should be able to have a beer and roast some marshmallows with his family in front of a fire whenever he wants.”

Harrier, who said he was planning to take his case to the Town Board’s Wednesday, May 10 meeting, agrees that an all-out ban isn’t needed.  

“It’s the result of just a few individuals, not everybody,” he said. “But the village has had a hard time with that. I know they’ve sent out letters but some people just disregard them. They don’t change.

“And when I call the police, they tell me ‘That’s the town’s business,’ not theirs.”

Recognizing the differing landscapes between the spread-out town and the more densely populated village is part of the dilemma, Harrier said.

“Out in the country, it’s no bother. But I’m right in the heart of Waubeka,” he said.

Looking over his fence, Harrier said he sees his neighbor set fires in a 6-foot-diamter open pit that sits close to Harrier’s fence.

“They bring in truckloads of skids and stack one on top of the other,” he said. “I see flames 10 to 15 feet high.”

At the May 3 meeting, plan commission member Doug Winquist said he wondered if such an issue goes deeper than what the town can remedy.

“They tend to be examples of neighbors who don’t get along on more than one level,” he said.  

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