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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


The Smoke Clears

Remember all the controversy about wood smoke? Remember how, right before the election, a few pamphleteers and cable access TV shows purported to have uncovered a secret agenda on the part of mayoral candidate Will Rossbach to ban recreational fires, fireplaces, wood stoves, etc.?

Last night we passed the second reading of the amended recreational fire ordinance. It becomes law as soon as it's published in the official newspaper. Contrary to all the election-season bleatings of Maplewood's conspiracy mongers, we didn't ban wood fires. In fact, most members of the city council told you all along, if you asked, that no ban was ever being considered.

But from the outset of the wood smoke task force, some people (including certain now-former councilmembers) have worked hard to fan the flames of fear with rumors that a ban on wood burning was imminent. Denials could only be seen as proof of the sinister scheme underway, to their way of thinking.

Now that the ordinance has actually passed (and there is no ban, in case that was unclear), the naked dishonesty and cynicism of these conspiracy mongers should be plain to all.

What we actually did do:
  • Changed the ordinance to conform to state law (which supercedes our ordinances anyway) where they were in conflict. Examples: Our old ordinance permitted coal as fuel for recreational fires, which Minnesota law prohibits; our ordinance allowed fires 20 feet from a structure, while the state requires a minimum of 25.
  • Extended the permitted hours for recreational fires, formerly from 2 PM to 11 PM, now from 10 AM to 11 PM.
  • Added a "good neighbor" clause that states "Recreational fires should not be lit or maintained if the smoke therefrom unreasonably causes discomfort or a negative impact to neighboring properties."
  • Added a wind restriction to allow recreational fires only when the wind is less than 15 mph.
And after all that controversy and character bashing, after turning a minor ordinance update into a political football, how many of those "concerned" people actually showed up last night to comment on the final passage of the ordinance? Zero.

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