November 30, 2011 - After two public hearings, Independence Township trustees took a step to modify the current burn ordinance.
Trustees voted 5-2 for Township Attorney Steve Joppich to draft up an ordinance based upon the Burn Committee's recommendations so the board has a "working document" to start from. Treasurer Curt Carson voted "no."
The majority of concern from residents as it related to the committee's recommended changes was reducing burn days from the current eight days a month to four days a month for lots less than one acre.
"I understand what you're trying to get at my suggestion would be consider a half acre instead of one acre. Even on my half acre I have 50 trees," said Dave Barron. "The weather always dictates what you're able to do, the ability to have a little more flexibility is helpful."
Resident Dan Muller agreed.
"Restricting the days might actually make the situation worse because you're limiting the opportunity for people to burn," he said. "They'll have to burn the leaves wet and generate more smoke."
While other's were still for alternative solutions to burning, Burn Committee Chairman Jim Reed, emphasized the committee worked hard to find a solution to eliminate burning and still believes it should be a "long term objective," but couldn't find a solution that wasn't of great cost to township residents.
"We strongly hoped there was a way to get rid of leaf burning, we could not find a viable alternative. I guess to that extent the committee failed," he said. "We don't know a way to get rid of leaves that most people in the township can accept at this time."
Neil Boggemes, husband of committee member Sandra Boggemes who suffers severely leaf burning due to a condition called anaphylaxis, said it was "money versus lives" issue.
"I don't really care how much the people of this township have to pay to get rid of their leaves because if my wife dies from this, I'm not going to be very happy about it," he said. "This is not a good situation. The township board knows their responsibility is for the health and welfare of the people of this community."
While resident Mark Bailey felt sympathy for Boggemes, he said homes are filled with chemicals that cause the asthma and emphysema, such as cooking with Teflon pans and using aerosol cans.
However, committee member Angela Hirsh said items within the household are a "personal choice."
"We can decide not to use aerosol sprays in our home," she said. "When our neighbor decides to burn and the smoke blows on our home and causes us to get sick we don't have a choice about that."
When the issue was brought back to the board Trustee Larry Rosso said the biggest problem is finding out how many people burn illegally.
"That is a very serious concern we have in our township," he said.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.