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Discussion of burning laws heats Sharpsburg meeting

February 02, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - Some Sharpsburg residents argued over the state's open burning law at Monday night's Town Council meeting.

Jean Harne said she wouldn't have called the Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Company last fall if somebody had just been burning household trash, but it smelled like something hazardous was burning and she thought someone's house was on fire.

"Everybody in town hates me now because I tried to save somebody's house," Harne said.

Harne said a neighbor put a swastika sign behind her yard and cussed at her in the alley.

"I'm not going to be bullied," she said.

Under state law, open burning is allowed only if the fire is at least 200 feet from a habitable dwelling. Town Attorney Charles Wagaman said that makes it impossible for legal burning in town because the lots are so close to each other.

"We're getting a lot of heat on this. There are places in town you can legally burn," said Councilman Ralph Hammond.

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Councilwoman Denise Troxell said the council can't tell people to break a state law.

Hammond said the reaction from Harne's complaint was that everyone was being penalized and being told they can't have open burnings.

After building a handicap ramp, some fire department members started burning leftover lumber until they were ordered to stop, said fire department member John Hammond.

The order came after Vice Mayor Sidney Gale called, according to John Hammond and Gale.

Gale said he suggested to Chief Jeremy Gay that they not burn the wood because open burning was a hot issue at the time.

Gale said he would apologize to Gay for the misunderstanding.

John Hammond said if he can't burn his yard waste, he wants the council to increase trash collection so rats aren't attracted to yard waste piles.

"If nosy neighbors are the cause of this, maybe we need to eliminate nosy neighbors," John Hammond said.

Mayor George Kesler said he didn't want things getting personal and council members got back to the legal issues.

Councilman Russ Weaver said he favors burning household trash to keep it out of the waste stream.

Weaver said the law's intent isn't to prevent people from building a campfire in the back yard with their kids, but to protect people's property and health.

After the meeting, Steven Houser Sr. said he did not put a swastika behind Harne's yard, but had a picture of several signs he put up, including one that read, "House for sale due to nosy neighbors."

Houser said he didn't want to sell, but was trying to rattle his neighbor.

The day Harne complained, Houser said he was burning hedges and rose bushes. If anyone wanted to know the truth, they could call the fire chief, who extinguished the fire, he said.

Gay said the only things he could distinguish in the barrel were brush and wood scraps, nothing hazardous.

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