Weekly Feature

2018-09-13 / Front Page

Town fire code in the pits

Code enforcement looks to amp up regulations on open, pit burning

The smoke is clearing for residents who have spent the summer months battling inconsiderate neighbors and their large bonfires.

During Monday afternoon’s Town Board work session, West Seneca Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey Schieber spoke to the members about amending the town’s code on fire pits.

The town does have a code and also operates under the umbrella of the state code. What Schieber said the Code Enforcement Office is looking to do is enhance the existing code and schedule a public hearing on the proposed updates.

“Previous regulations were derived from the fire code. They are very vague,” he said. “There is nothing specific in the town code.”

According to Town Attorney John Fenz, the state Department of Environmental Conservation enforces the state code.

“One of the things you first look at with legislation is, does the town have the authority to legislate this? We do, but one of the things we’ll have to work with is the environmental conservation law allows the Department of [Environmental] Conservation to regulate certain fires,” Fenz said. “We have to make sure that when we’re going through and drafting our ordinance, that we don’t do anything that would be pre-empted by state law or state regulations.”

Schieber, along with the other two inspectors from the Code Enforcement Office, presented the board with a draft that he believes identifies all potential issues and any issues facing the town now.

“This way, it’s set in stone, and future problems could be addressed appropriately,” Schieber said, adding that the proposed code is to serve as a preliminary draft for review and comment.

“With adopting the fire pit ordinance, or something to regulate that, the town needs to carve it out in a manner so that we’re not stepping into a regulated area that the DEC already has,” Fenz said.

The attorney said the state does not provide the town with an opportunity for either the Code Enforcement Office or the Police Department to declare something a nuisance and hold residents in violation. The code would give the town local autonomy to address those issues.

Fenz said the town has the authority to prohibit open burning but does not currently have a law against such actions.

“Jeff gave me a great starting place,” the attorney said. “I have enough to work with and present the board with anything that they want to see.”

Police Chief Daniel Denz requested that he be involved with the process, as his department will be responsible for enforcement of any new code that is established.

He said there are maybe a few dozen calls regarding fire pits that his department responds to annually.

“It’s usually repeaters. It’s not like it’s spread out. We’ll usually have one problem at a residence and multiple calls at that residence,” he said.

The Police Department works with the Code Enforcement Office on these calls to determine if the fire pit is in regulation.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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