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Wood boiler reg plan bubbles to surface at Copake meeting

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COPAKE–The Town Board is considering adding outdoor wood burning furnace and junkyards/motor vehicle storage area regulations to the town’s zoning ordinance instead of enacting new local laws with enforcement problems.

The Town of Kinderhook imposed a moratorium on the installation of outdoor wood boilers in August while a committee works on a law to regulate them, and the Copake board talked about a similar moratorium. But, in the end Copake board members opted to forego a moratorium and draft a law.

A report called Smoke Gets in Your Lungs: Outdoor Wood Boilers in New York State, issued by the state attorney general’s Environmental Protection Bureau, says that neither federal nor state regulations “limit the pollution from nor address the proper use of outdoor wood boilers. Unlike, indoor wood stoves and other heating devices, outdoor wood boilers do not have to meet safety or performance standards.”

The report notes that some local governments have imposed limits on outdoor wood boilers, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the device manufacturers have agreed to voluntary goals aimed at reducing particulate matter emissions. But these voluntary goals are not enforceable and “not adequate to prevent impacts on public health,” according to the report.

At the October meeting, Councilwoman Linda Gabaccia read a list of recommendations for outdoor wood burning furnaces suggested by the Town Board. The recommendations acknowledge wood burning in the Northeast as an alternative form of energy and note an “ongoing need to further develop alternative non-fossil fuel dependent energy technologies as part of our economic and environmental survival.”

Recommendations are:

*Newly purchased outdoor wood boilers should have an efficiency rating of 90% and come from the list issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of manufacturers that have voluntarily complied with the EPA’s request to improve emission standards

*Only firewood, wood pellets, untreated lumber, fossil fuels and corn would be permitted as fuel. Burning of rubbish, garbage, paint, treated or stained wood is strictly prohibited. Violations will be reported to the zoning enforcement officer, Copake Police and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for investigation

*Outdoor wood boilers should not interfere with the public health, safety, and welfare of residents nor prevent residents from reasonable enjoyment of their life and property

*The zoning enforcement officer or town police should make two inspections per year of all outdoor wood boilers in town

*Owners would have to obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, with a $25 application fee. Existing outdoor wood boilers would have to be registered within 30 days of enactment of regulations.

The proposals also address setbacks, chimney heights and the amount of time a boiler can remain unused before it must be removed.

The recommendations were turned over to attorney Lawrence Howard, counsel to the Planning Board, to draft a law.

Planning Board Chair Marcia Becker and Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Ferratto agreed that the installation of a new wood boiler should require a building permit.

The public hearing on junkyards/motor vehicle storage areas was continued from last month and began with questions about fire safety. The proposed local law calls for a minimum spacing of four feet between each row of stored motor vehicles, which is not enough to allow for the passage of a fire engine in the event of a fire, said resident Morris Ordover.

Planning Board Chairwoman Becker said the law is burdensome on auto repair businesses and called for the businesses to be included in the table of uses in the zoning ordinance.

Councilman Joe LaPorta said residents’ major complaint about the auto repair and auto body shops at the southern entrance to the hamlet has to do with “the appearance they present.”

Town Supervisor Reggie Crowley said the original goal for the junkyard committee was to “eliminate a different set of rules with each new administration.” He said the board is striving for one set of rules, adding that state laws address problems like the discharge of liquids on the ground. “No one wants to create a law when there are already laws in place,” said the supervisor.

Mr. LaPorta talked about how current regulations are not consistently applied.

Mr. Crowley called for the committee–Mr. LaPorta, Harvey Weber and Chris Quinby–to meet with Ms. Becker to explore a regulation that “takes the burden off” auto repair and auto body businesses. He asked that the committee report back to the board by the November meeting. “Then everybody [will be] on the same page and they’ll all know what they have to do,” he said.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@ColumbiaPaper.com

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