June 27, 2012 - Independence Township residents will face tougher penalties if they break the board's revised Open Burn Ordinance, which was passed, 4-1, June 19.
Currently, locals who break the burn ordinance won't pay a fee for their first offense. As of Jan. 1, 2013 a first offense will cost $150, the second will be $300, the third $600, and a fourth will cost $1,000. To burn legally in Independence, residents must get a free burn permit from the Fire Department.
The price tag for breaking the ordinance isn't the only change in store for residents. Those who live on less than one acre of land are banned from burning, while those who live on more than one acre can burn on specific dates.
Locals who start a recreational (burning seasoned wood in fire pits) or non-recreational (burning of dry leaves and brush) fire must be a distance of 50 feet from buildings or neighboring houses, previously the distance was 25 feet.
Although most on the board were pleased with the revisions to the old ordinance, Treasurer Curt Carson was not.
"I have an issue with government interfering in everybody's lives and trying to legislate whether a person is smart enough to have a fire on their property or not," Carson said. "People don't appreciate rights or privileges being taken from them," he added.
Trustee Rosso, who has worked on revising the ordinance since 2011, disagrees.
"Your freedom impacts the freedom of others who want to avoid the impact of smoke," he said. From his perspective, it is a public health issue.
Rosso also felt it was time for the ordinance to change because the previous one reflects a more rural community, and the township has become more suburban in recent years, he said.
Although the community's rural and suburban populations have changed, the township's leaf disposal offerings remain the same.
"Unless we can provide an alternative that is economical enough for the residents, I certainly have an issue. I'm not interested in adding a financial burden on residents," Carson stated.
Rosso pointed out locals could choose to mulch, compost, or use a leaf-removing service; however, the price of these options will fall on residents.
The township considered developing a leaf disposal service, but the price to purchase the equipment and pay personnel would mean a tax raise, Rosso said.
In the end, Carson's arguments didn't sway the rest of the board, and the ordinance passed without his vote.
The Independence Township Board of Trustees will hold its second reading of the revised open burn ordinance on July 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Township Hall.
In the coming weeks, the ordinance will be available to view online at www.twp.independence.mi.us.
Clarkston News reporter