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Selectmen Tackle Outdoor Woodburning Furnaces, Set Stage For Rental Properties Discussion

By: Maria Moore

Two “hot” issues were on the Board of Selectmen’s agenda of their last meeting: outdoor woodburning furnances (OWFs) and the town’s rental properties. The issue of OWFs was the one that was dealt with at the meeting, while the issue of the town’s rental properties was set in motion and will be discussed at the second selectmen’s meeting in September, on the 28th.

The meeting was held in the intimate setting of the lower level (“Jaildoors”) conference room on Tuesday, August 24, and among those in attendance in addition to the three selectmen were, from left to right, Reggie Smith Jr. (Board of Finance), Dan LaPlante (Planning and Zoning Commission), Larry Terra, Alesia Kennerson (Board of Finance), and former First Selectman Earl MacInnes.

The selectmen quickly went through the first five items on their agenda (see the copy of the agenda at the end of this report) before tackling item #6, the issue of outdoor woodburning furnaces.

Item #6: Outdoor Woodburning Furnaces ~ Discussion

All three selectmen ~ First Selectman Dan Jerram, and Selectmen Tom Klebart and Bruce Gresczyk ~ fully participated in the discussion on OWFs and in the voting on the motion at the end of the discussion; see our Footnote on the participation of all three selectmen in the discussion at the end of this report. Larry Terra, who was recently admitted to the Connecticut Bar Association, had submitted to the selectmen information on OWFs, including a fact sheets published by the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) on the deleterious health effects of the smoke from OWFs.

First Selectman Dan Jerram began the discussion by saying that the issue had been tabled by the selectmen to allow Larry Terra time to submit information to them.  Dan said that in the past the issue had been sent by the selectmen to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which had sent it back to the selectmen again. See our March 25, 2010 report … Outdoor Woodburning Stoves Issue Again Before P&Z. Dan said that P&Z had chosen not to regulate those devices (OWFs) even though they have regulated other energy-producing devices such as solar. Referring to the information from DEP which Larry had submitted, Dan said that DEP “opines” that they may not be the best in terms of health, but the DEP does not regulate them. He said he had gotten feedback about regulating OWFs per an ordinance and he’d had a conversation with Christine (Hayward, his Administrative Assistant) and there were lots of questions on how that would proceed. Christine, who was at the meeting taking the minutes, said that there had been concerns expressed by the police concerning the enforcing of an ordinance in terms of being a nuisance to a neighbor. “How do you define it and how do you enforce it? There are issues already with open burning.” Christine said. P&Z also had concerns about enforcing with their (limited) personnel and as for the police, with their limited manpower, enforcing ordinances was not a priority, she continued.

Tom Klebart said that he had gone through the materials and that there’s reason to believe that they’re not a really efficient means of heating. He said there were 10-11 towns that have regulated OWFs and he agreed that it shouldn’t be via an ordinance but rather it should be P&Z that set it up. “I agree with the police,” Tom said, “I’d rather see them doing police work.” He added that it was mostly done by regulation, that P&Z was best suited to do it. He emphasized that there was enough history and research to study the matter, and not to set it aside.

Dan responded that there were lots of different ways it could have been considered by P&Z, by special exception for example. He added: “My neighbor has one (an OWF), and you wouldn’t know it.” Bruce noted that the town had a 200′ setback, which was more than the state was doing.

Dan asked if the recommendation was to go back to P&Z to have them consider putting it (regulation of the OWFs) in their regulations. Tom said that there’s enough reason to recommend that they set it up as a regulation, but also for them to do a study on it and go beyond.

Bruce said that at the state level “it didn’t get out of committee.” He emphasized that there was a difference between an oversized unit and an undersized one. “It depends on your location,” Tom responded. “On whether the smoke is coming in low to the ground and gets into the house.”

“You get that with regular woodburning stoves.” Bruce responded. “The smoke is more hazardous.” Tom answered him. “That’s in cold rather than hot mode.” Bruce contended, “That’s partial combustion.” Tom responded that wood stoves burn hot.  He recommended sending it to P&Z for them to study and see if they want to put in some form of regulation.

With the discussion ended, the selectmen voted on the following motion, which they passed unanimously:

“To recommend that the Planning & Zoning Commission revisit the inclusion of a regulation limiting the use of Outdoor Wood Burning Furnaces (OWF’s) within New Hartford’s Zoning Regulations.”

Our reporter obtained the wording of his motion directly from Christine Hayward, since the wording was changed slightly several times before being voted on.

Once the motion was passed, Dan suggested they cosign a letter to the P&Z Chairman to show they support some inclusion. Tom agreed, saying there was enough reason to support something in the regulations.

Later in the meeting, under Item #10, Opportunity for Public Comment, Larry Terra briefly summarized some of the information he had provided to the selectmen. He said that since their last meeting two more towns had banned OWFs, Cheshire and West Hartford. He emphasized that regulating OWFs would have no impact on indoor woodburning stoves, nor would it impact open pit burning.  And as far as the DEP report that had been compiled from studies it had a big “Yes!“ that the smoke was harmful to people. He added that he was not aware of any equipment capable of meeting regulations and that the Public Health Act gave the selectmen the authority to do all that they need to protect residents. He ended by saying that, according to the DEP leaflet Thinking of purchasing an outdoor wood-burning furnace?, one OWF emits as much particulate matter (i.e. toxic air pollutants) as 3,000 homes, and New Hartford has 12 of them.

Dan thanked him and said he had found support for them to give a letter to the P&Z recommending they revisit it and add some level of regulation.

Thick smoke from the Gresczyk Farms' outdoor woodburning furnace envelops the farm buildings and drifts towards residences on Dings Road in March 2010.  Photo from NewHartfordPlus archives.

Smoke from the Gresczyk Farms' outdoor woodburning furnace envelops the farm buildings and drifts towards residences on Dings Road in March 2010. Photo from NewHartfordPlus archives.

Item #7: Distribution of Brodie – Surdam Task Force Report

At the end of the August 10 BOS meeting, Tom had asked about the report on the town’s rental properties that had been completed by the Brodie/Surdam Property Task Force.  Dan had agreed to put that item on a future agenda, and it was included as item #7 in their meeting of August 24, the subject of this report.

Copies of the 58-page report were distributed to the selectmen and to interested members of the public.  Dan said the selectmen would  take up the issue at the second meeting after their current one, i.e. on Tuesday, September 28.

The 58-page report by the Town of New Hartford Brodie/Surdam Property Task Force, Report to Board of Selectmen, is dated October 2009.  The Task Force, under the non-chairmanship of Reggie Smith Jr., a former First Selectman of the town and as yet not a member of the Board of Finance, was assembled by former First Selectman Earl MacInnes on May 18, 2009.  The Task Force was Earl’s response to the avalanche of criticism leveled at him for having secretly signed a lease with Don Birden, a member of the town’s road crew to rent to Dan the Brodie House, part of Brodie Park for 4 years at $400 per month.  This secret lease was signed by the two, unbeknownst to either the other selectmen or the Rec Commission, only a few months after the previous tenant, who was paying $1,000 a month in rent, was evicted from the property.  To revisit the issue just before the Brodie/Surdam Property Task Force was formed, please see our April 27, 2009 report Public Gets to Question the First Selectman, Those in Executive Session Don’t.  Shortly after the report was submitted to the Board of Selectmen in October 2009, the present administration, headed by Dan Jerram came to power.  Until Tom Klebart resurrected the issue on August 10, the situation remained unchanged: the road crew member and his family continue to live at the Brodie House paying $400 in rent.

We will be publishing a follow-up report, summarizing the contents of the Task Force’s report as well as summarizing the situation with the Brodie House rental, both of which should be the focus of the September 28 BOS meeting.  In the meantime, we are attaching as a downloadable PDF a copy of the Task Force’s recommendations, pages 8 and 9 of their report: Brodie/Surdam Property Task Force: Recommendations (256)

One of the banners announcing the concerts at Brodie Park this past summer was across the front yard of the Brodie House on the corner of West Hill and Niles roads.  Photo from NewHartfordPlus archives.

One of the banners announcing the concerts at Brodie Park this past summer was across the front yard of the Brodie House on the corner of West Hill and Niles roads. Photo from NewHartfordPlus archives.

Item #11: Any Other Business to Come Before this Board ~ Proposal For Use of CRRA Money To Develop Economic Development Plan

Tom Klebart brought up the use of the CRRA money, which the selectmen had discussed during their August 10 meeting.  At that time Dan had presented the other Board members with three different projects for which he wanted to use the CRRA money; see our August 12 report Proposal to Use CRRA Settlement Money Discussed At BOS Meeting.

Tom said that he didn’t want to use that money for recurring items; rather, he said, he wanted to look at the possibility of using it to hire a consultant to develop an economic development plan.  Tom continued: “We keep talking about new business coming to town, but we need to develop a plan.  What incentives do we need to set in place that this is a town that business will want to come to.”

Dan said that they were doing that with the Industrial Park and with Routee 44, but again Tom insisted: “We’ve never developed a plan of what do we need to put in place.” Dan said they could continue to take it up at a later meeting.

The Board meeting was brought to a close at 7:45 p.m.  Immediately the meeting ended, former First Selectman called to Tom, congratulating him on his proposal which, Earl said, showed great forethought.  ”[The town will] get a better return than buying a grader!” Earl added.

_______________

Footnote: Selectman Bruce Gresczyk participated fully in the discussion regarding whether or not to regulate OWFs. Bruce and his family own Gresczyk Farms on Route 202 and they operate an OWF on their farm. At past meetings Bruce has voiced opposition to any regulation of OWFs; see our report of the May 25 Board of Selectmen meeting. Bruce had been asked at a previous Board of Selectmen meeting whether he would recuse himself from any upcoming discussion on OWF and he said he was considering doing so. After the August 24 meeting, being reported on above our reporter was asked by a number of residents to check in with the First Selectman to see whether a legal opinion had been sought on Bruce’s participation in the discussion at the meeting. First Selectman Dan Jerram said that he had consulted with the town attorney, Chip Roraback and he had been told that there was no conflict. Dan pointed to the outcome of the discussion ~ to send the issue back to the Planning and Zoning Commission asking them to include OWFs in their zoning regulations ~ and said that he was perfectly comfortable with the process.

________________

Board of Selectmen

Regular Meeting

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

7:00 PM

Town Hall

AGENDA

1.)Minutes

2.)Operations Updates

3.)Grants Updates

4.)Adoption of Non-Discrimination Resolution

5.)Adoption of Loan Resolution – USDA

6.)Outdoor Wood Burning Furnaces – Discussion

7.)Distribution of Brodie – Surdam Task Force Report

8.)Request for Tax Refunds

9.)Correspondence

10.)Opportunity for Public Comment

11.)Any Other Business to Come Before this Board

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