E-town board passes OWB law

ELIZABETHTOWN - After a year-long effort, the Elizabethtown Town Board has agreed on a new local law that will ban any future outdoor wood boilers within the zoned hamlet.

Only three residents spoke at a brief public hearing Sept. 16, two of them in favor of a law that would allow only existing outdoor furnaces to remain with strict regulations.

"I believe, with the time we've taken, we've come up with a document that we'll be proud of for years to come," said town supervisor Noel Merrihew.

The law would allow existing boilers to operate between Sept. 15 and May 1, provided they burn only clean, dry firewood, and are "utilized in a manner that does not create a nuisance and which is not detrimental to the health, safety, and general welfare of the residents of the zoning regulated area."

The proposed law was the third version brought before a public hearing. Other versions had been met with more opposition, either for being too lax or for not allowing existing boilers to remain.

Elizabethtown resident Mal Hackett, whose house neighbors one of the four existing OWBs in the hamlet, complained that the law would not provide adequate enforcement to protect his home from woodsmoke as it contains no provisions for minimum smokestack height. Merrihew disagreed, saying nuisances would be dealt with by the code enforcement officer.

"I think the board feels confident in the simplicity of the language and how it lends itself to proper enforcement," said Merrihew, adding that the law will not only promote public health, but preserve the aesthetics of the village.

Town councilman Joe Martin also spoke against the law, saying it unnecessarily discourages the use of wood, a plentiful and renewable resource, as a source for heat.

"I think you're cutting your nose off to spite your own face," Martin said. "I just don't see how you're going to gain a lot by the ban."

The board held their regular meeting that same evening where the new law passed by a vote of 3-1. Martin was the only board member opposed, and councilman Phil Hutchins was absent due to a death in the family.

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