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Board gives OWB law second look

ELIZABETHTOWN After a wave of public opposition to a proposed law regulating outdoor wood boilers (OWBs), the Elizabethtown Town Board withdrew the law at its Oct. 21 meeting and began work on a new one that could ban the devices outright. In the boards first meeting since an Oct. 1 public hearing on the original draft, Supervisor Noel Merrihew recommended serious reconsideration of the law after receiving comments from so many people speaking against it. The law would have allowed OWBs to be installed in the hamlet provided they met a 25-foot setback requirement from property lines as well as other regulations on usage. It appears that the majority of people that have contacted me are in support of banning outdoor wood burning devices within the zoned area, said Merrihew, and theyre split between whether or not to grandfather in present devices with the caveat that they adhere to the regulations that are outlying within this proposed local law. If the original draft of the law was withdrawn, Merrihew said, the board would restart the process of proposing a law, holding yet another public hearing, and then discussing whether to go forward with the law. I think most of my board would feel comfortable to have another opportunity for a public hearing for people who, for whatever reason, did not choose to represent themselves and have their views known, Merrihew said. Councilman Ken Fenimore moved to rescind the proposed law so that work could begin on a new one. The literature that Ive read indicates that its probably not appropriate they be in the community, said Fenimore, who suggested drafting of a new law that would ban OWBs within the hamlet. Merrihew explained that, even though the moratorium period on the furnaces has expired, no devices could legally be installed as long as the process of drafting and reviewing a proposed law was taking place. He recommended immediately proposing another law to ensure no additional installations in the meantime. Councilman Phil Hutchins suggested that the proposal of a law banning the devices might encourage more people supporting their allowance to voice their opinion, but expressed hesitation for voting in support of an OWB ban. He suggested resuming the moratorium as an alternative. After the board agreed to discard the original proposal, Fenimore moved to draft a law that would not only ban OWBs within the hamlet, but set a two-year time limit for existing furnaces to remain under strict regulation. Both Merrihew and councilman Mike McGinn expressed opposition to a forced removal of existing devices and suggested allowing existing devices indefinitely with similar restrictions on usage in place. If we allow the existing furnaces to remain, what were doing is dooming their neighbors, said Fenimore. Merrihew noted that there are currently no more than four OWBs in the hamlet area. Id be pretty upset if someone came to me after I spent $12,000 on a heating system and said I couldnt have it anymore, said McGinn. Its costing someone something, said Fenimore. There are people who are going to be affected by this no matter which way you go. Councilman Paul Martin suggested extending the proposed timeline to three years, to which Fenimore agreed. A vote on the new draft drew a mixed response. Hutchins voted in favor of the proposal, emphasizing that he was doing so with the understanding that it would need to be approved at a later time. McGinn voted against the motion entirely, but it passed 4-1. Yet another public hearing will likely be scheduled next month as a formal draft of the new proposed law is assembled.

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