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Residents sound off on proposed OWB law

ELIZABETHTOWN Some consider a proposed local law regulating outdoor wood boilers in Elizabethtown unnecessary. For many others, it does not go far enough. Varying opinions on the use of outdoor wood boilers resurfaced Oct. 1 at a public hearing for the proposed law, which would regulate the placement and operation of OWBs within the zoned hamlet area of Elizabethtown. About 15 people attended the meeting where town board members welcomed public comments. Though their reasons differed greatly, most everyone who spoke did so in opposition of the law. Based on similar laws from the towns of Champion and Queensbury, the law would require any new outdoor furnaces in the village to be installed at least 25 feet from the nearest property line. OWBs would not be allowed within 200 feet of a school, hospital, or daycare center. Requirements on chimney height are included based on the eave-line of neighboring residences. The law would also limit OWB operation to the months of October through May. In addition to untreated wood, the law would allow for the burning of fossil fuels and corn in the furnaces. Burning of any other materials, such as household garbage, would be prohibited. Violators could be fined as much as $250 or be sentenced to up to 15 days in jail for each week in non-compliance. Many, like Evelyn Hatch, opposed the law for being too lax. Hatch presented the board with a petition signed by 59 residents asking for an outright ban of OWBs town-wide. She went on to cite a 2005 report by the state Attorney Generals office regarding the inefficiency and pollution potential of the outdoor furnaces. There are no other laws on the books... that allow for a mere 25-foot setback, Hatch stated. A letter from the Adirondack Council to town board members also opposed the proposed legislation, stating similar statistics on the hazards of OWBs and calling for a continuation of the towns moratorium on their installation. It is essential that town officials fully understand the potential environmental and human health risks posed by OWBs, prior to adopting inadequate zoning regulations that fail to protect the health of Elizabethtown residents and workers, stated the letter. Margaret Bartley spoke against the law, noting that it removed crucial lot-size requirements from the Champion and Queensbury laws that were designed to keep OWBs out of densely populated areas. Were trying to take a template from a rural area and make it work for our village, Bartley said. Residents like John Deming, who proudly operates two outdoor wood boilers, opposed the law for its attempt to regulate the devices. I have no intention of permitting anyone to come on our property [to inspect the boiler], said Deming. He also said that limiting use to October through May was too restrictive. Town board members will now take a second look at the law and decide whether to pass it, defeat it, or make adjustments. What they decide to do in regards to OWBs remains to be seen. We have three choices, said Supervisor Noel Merrihew. We can ignore it, we can accept it with regulations and oversight, or, as some towns have done, we can ban the future installation of them.

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