Originally created 04/12/06

Columbia County weighs plans on outdoor burning



It was a heated issue that kept Pam Tucker's phone line busy two months ago.

Now, Columbia County officials say the complaints have diminished, and commissioners are considering a proposal on how county residents should deal with the issue of outdoor burning.

"I think that all of the discussion and publicity have made people aware that the smoke bothers people who live or work nearby, and it's had an impact on reducing the number of people burning,'' said Mrs. Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director.

Some county officials had looked at enacting a prohibition on outdoor burning within 100 feet of residential structures, falling in line with a Richmond County regulation.

That idea, however, has been dropped, and county officials are now looking at proposals that were recently made by the county's Fire & EMS Advisory Board. Those proposals will go before county commissioners at their next meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Evans Government Center.

One suggestion would allow residents who are opposed to outdoor burning to have an outdoor burning restriction added to their neighborhood covenant. That way, the restriction would apply only to that subdivision and would be enforceable by the covenant, not a county ordinance.

Commissioner Steve Brown has said such a move would require 100 percent approval of those in the subdivision, expressing concern that one person could prevent a change.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross, though, said some neighborhoods require only 75 percent approval to change the covenant.

Those living in areas that don't have a covenant could petition county commissioners to enact an individual subdivision restriction, Mrs. Tucker said.

Those two suggestions were recently presented at a county committee meeting, and its members favorably forwarded them to the full board of commissioners for a vote.

Mrs. Tucker said officials also want a strong public education program on the county's current open burning requirements and the complaint process.

She said officials likewise want to improve how complaints and habitual violators are handled.

An annual statewide ban on outdoor burning runs from May 1 through Sept. 30.

"What we'd like to do is use that time to do as much (public awareness) as we can,'' Mrs. Tucker said.

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

New proposals concerning outdoor burning in Columbia County will go before county commissioners at their next meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Evans Government Center.