Special Borough Council Meeting Tonight to Adopt Fire Pit Ordinance Proposed Last Summer
MOUNT POCONO (JUN 15 2020) - A proposal to slightly loosen the total ban on recreational fires in the Borough is suddenly being rushed through at a special council meeting tonight after council let it sit since it was first proposed in August 2019. The proposed ordinance would permit recreational fires in the Borough until 11pmdaily from 9am, and weekends from noon. The proposal applies numerous restrictions, and contains a number of vagaries pointed out last year, but ignored by the planning commission and council.
The terms of the new ordinance are substantially as follows:
B. Permitted burning – the following constitutes the only permitted burning within the
Borough of Mount Pocono:
(2) Recreational fires. All such fires, consisting only of natural or “clean” wood fuel
sources, shall be confined to portable non-combustible containers (e.g.
chimineas, hearths) covered with a spark arrestor, or approved permanent
outdoor brick or stone fire pits covered with a spark arrestor. Such fires shall be
tended to at all times, and where they will be extinguished promptly after all
recreational activity has been completed.
a) Hours of recreation fires are limited to Monday through Friday, 5:00 P.M. to 11:00
P.M. and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 11:00 P.M.
C. All such permitted fires shall burn no closer than twenty-five (25) feet from any lot line,
and where permitted recreational fires shall burn no closer than twenty-five (25) feet from any
D. Under no circumstances shall it be permitted to burn unlawful or other fuel sources not
listed above. These prohibited fuel sources include (but are not limited to) leaves, yard clippings,
trade waste, construction debris, rubber, plastic, garbage, offal, refuse, furniture, treated/painted
lumber, or other materials.
The largest restriction is that only those with larger parcels of land can enjoy their backyard fire. The ordinance requires that the fire be located at least 25 feet from any lot line or structure. "Structure" is not further defined, so it actually includes everything considered a structure under our ordinances. The fire would need to be located 25 feet from a home, garage, shed, pool, gazebo, doghouse, bird bath, statute, swingset, or any other building, construction, or device placed on your land. If you are fortunate enough to have a yard that big, there are other issues you'll need to address.
The first is to figure out what you are permitted to burn. The text says "natural or 'clean' wood fuel". The way it is written, this might be read as identifying identifies two different fuels -- "natural" and "clean wood". Or, maybe, "natural" was meant to modify "clean wood". So, can you burn charcoal? Propane? If so, what else is "natural" fuel?
If you decide to just go with wood, how do you know if your wood is "clean"? Without a definition, it isn't very clear how to interpret or enforce the term "clean" as a modifier of "wood".
Next, you'll need to figure out what you can burn your wood in. You appear to have a choice between "portable non-combustible containers" , or "approved permanent
outdoor brick or stone fire pits". Apparently, if what you are burning in is portable, it can be made of anything that doesn't burn (we'll skip over whatever "portable" means -- we've all seen houses being moved on the highway, and remember that video where an entire Amish community picked up and move an entire barn?)
But, if you have a "permanent" pit, it must be made of brick or stone. So a steel ring is out of the question. But, what does "approved" mean anyway? Who does the approval, what is is based on, is the Borough going to have a "fire pit approval inspector" to grant approvals? We don't know. None of these questions have been answered, and they were all asked before. When they requested public comment last summer, these questions were directed to the council and to the planning commission (which includes the mayor and council member Patty Bucco). Not one of them bothered to respond, not at the time, and not in the ten months since.
In October 2019, the council did have the opportunity to pass a comprehensive recreational burning ordinance, modeled after the Stroudsburg Borough ordinance, which has existed for nearly 20 years. But they voted it down, 5-2, with only then-members Matt Hensel and Tom Ford voting in favor.
After that October 7 meeting, the council took no action on changing the ban on recreational fires in the subsequent eight monthly meetings. But for some reason decided in June that they would pay to advertise and conduct a special meeting tonight at 7pm, instead of waiting for the regular July meeting. The council has decided to conduct in-person meetings. But they are limited to 25 people, which means that only a handful of residents may attend, depending on how many members of council and staff are there. To participate tonight, you'll need to join the free conference call service council uses. Dial-in: (978) - 990-5000 After dialing in, enter the access code to participate: 378920#