Council discusses regulating tradition of burning leaves
To burn or not to burn, that is the question.
As Baldwin City prepares for its annual Maple Leaf Festival celebration of fall foliage, the city council heard from resident Dennis Waymire at Monday's meeting. Waymire wants to see an end to the long-held practice of burning leaves in the city.
"I know it's a real problem in my neighborhood with the leaf burning," said Waymire. "A long-term solution is to eventually end leaf burning. In the meantime, I'd suggest limiting it to a few days. I think we need to do something about this.
"I'd like to see a little regulation," he said. "We can't open up our house because of all the smoke."
Current city ordinance allows for burning leaves and small tree limbs between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Waymire had sent council members a letter with supporting information on the dangers of leaf burning and said he'd be at Monday's meeting to discuss it.
His proposal of limiting the burning to a few Saturdays a month caught the council by surprise.
"I didn't get it from the stuff you gave us that it should be regulated," said Council Member Doyle Jardon. "I did not get that from this. I'm glad you came tonight to explain."
"It's a big problem, or I wouldn't be here," said Waymire, who has lived in Baldwin for 12 years.
The council had discussed the burn ordinance at its last meeting and decided there was no need to take any action. As a result, Waymire compiled the information regarding health and safety issues and presented them to the council.
Jardon asked Waymire if he had the cooperation of his neighbors on the ban. Waymire said the majority of his neighbors burn leaves, but there are those who are bothered by the smoke like him.
"I know there are some old people in our neighborhood tthat would like to see it banned," he said. "I know it's not going to happen overnight. There are people who have burned leaves for 35 years.
"I think we really need to get a hold on it -- get away from the seven days a week to burn," said Waymire. "Maybe regulate it to a couple of Saturdays a month."
He also said he was surprised that he was the only one that came to the meeting to speak about the issue. He said he expected opposition.
"But, I don't know how you could fight better air quality for the town," said Waymire. "It needs some regulation until it can be phased out."
Council Member Nancy Brown, who's safety committee looked into the burning ordinance and recommended that no changes be made at the previous meeting, said she'd learned a lot from Waymire.
"I didn't know there were quadrants where this was widespread," said Brown. "In our neighborhood, leaves are only burned a couple of times. I appreciate you coming and bringing us something else to chew on."
The council briefly discussed offering composting to residents and Jardon suggested that the city check with Ottawa Sanitation, which handles the city's trash, about possibly having a cleanup weekend where the company would pick up yard waste.
"I think Doyle has hit on something with checking with Ottawa Sanitation," said Mayor Gary Walbride.
Council Member Ted Brechiesen Jr. suggested further study before any action.
"We should have a solution before we ban burning," said Brechiesen.
Waymire has his own personal solution.
"I just get out there and mow them up," he said.
The council assured Waymire they'd look into it further.
"At a minimum, I like the idea of restricting it," said Council President Amy Cleavinger.
"I'm sure the council will look into this further," said Walbridge.