Metro-East News

Swansea tackles burning question

Swansea Village Board members on Monday night may change the rules for residents who burn leaves.

Under current regulations, residents can burn leaves 11 a. m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays between April 1 and June 30 and between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30. Also, they can get a permit from the fire department to burn yard waste at other times of the year.

Now, the trustees have two options to consider:

Option 1: Ban leaf burning except for people who obtain a permit.

Option 2: Keep the current time frame open for burning but stop issuing permits to burn leaves at other times throughout the year.

These two options were forwarded to the board from the village’s Environmental Committee, which has discussed the issue in seven recent meetings. Also, a public hearing was held in December.

Trustee Brian Wells said he proposed the second option so people who oppose leaf burning would at least know when the burning would occur because under the current scenario “we have burning 365 days a year with no set time limits.”

Also, he said it may make more sense to have the spring burning season moved to February and March. He has asked to review the list of permits issued to see if there is a particular time people need to burn that doesn’t fit in the current time frame.

“I would like to see less burning of yard waste, but I know for some it would be too much of a hardship,” Wells said. “I also want our folks to know when there won’t be any burning. Picture this; you have a large family reunion in your backyard. You’ve got the perfect weather, but all of a sudden your neighbor gets a cloud of smoke drifting over your party? It was not a burn day. But your neighbor got a permit. So I am for the burning but I want those times known to all.”

Susan Schultz, who did not run for re-election on April 7, is the chairwoman of the Environmental Committee that has extensively discussed the leaf-burning issue.

“When I ran for election, I remember the burn issue was a hot topic,” Schultz said. “And I was really surprised that a lot people were very passionate over that subject. As you can see, this has been ongoing for a long, long time and it’s a decision that hasn’t been made lightly.”

Schultz said she would support the option that keeps a burning season but eliminates the permits.

The BND asked for Swansea residents to comment on the proposed leaf-burning rules and more than a dozen gave replies spanning the spectrum of opinions on the issue.

Randy Galati, a lifelong resident of Swansea, believes burning should be allowed, especially for people who live in older parts of Swansea filled with mature trees.

Galati said he is an environmental health and safety manager in private industry and has doesn’t believe leaf burning is a health hazard.

He’s also against a ban because it would be burdensome on residents living on fixed incomes.

Carmen Reed, who has lived in Swansea for seven years, is “100 percent” against leaf burning.

Reed has friends and neighbors who have elderly and young family members with respiratory problems that inhibit them from being outside for any extended period of time when leaf burning is taking place.

“When warmer weather is upon us, it’s nice to be able to turn off your heat, open up your windows and let the fresh air roll in, which I would usually do on a Saturday while doing house chores, only to be inundated with the smell of leaves burning coming into the house, therefore I must close up the house,” Reed said.

Others suggested the village keep the current regulations while others have said the issue should be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide.

The Village Board will meet Monday night at Wolf Branch Middle School at 410 Huntwood Road. The board meeting will begin after committee meetings conclude. The committee meetings begin at 6 p.m.