Burn ban petition heats up

SHADY COVE — While the City Council fired up a heated discussion Thursday on a compromise ordinance designed to discourage open burning, a signature drive drew closer to putting a complete burning ban on the November ballot.

Doug Van Gordon and Dale McQuiston, who are heading up the drive, said they've collected 232 signatures of registered voters out of the 254 that must be collected by Aug. 6 for the measure to qualify for the ballot.

"Just to be safe, we're still shooting for 300 signatures before we turn them all in," said Van Gordon. "It's going well and I want to thank all the people who have helped us, particularly the people who signed, but don't necessarily believe in the burning ban."

At Thursday's meeting, Mayor Ruth Keith offered a compromise proposal that would require a $150, city-issued burn-season permit and restrict the number of burning hours on burn days.

"I think we're jumping the gun," said Councilman Bill Kyle. "If this passes ... then this is just a wasted motion."

Kyle said that because fire season was declared last Monday, "for three or four months we can't burn, period, and that means it's going to put it very close to the November election anyway. We can take care of it then."

Councilman Gary Hughes, who has tried to get open burning banned in the city for a year and a half, said he thought it was appropriate to consider the revised ordinance.

"The council, at our public meeting (in April), really did not vote on a burn ban issue," said Hughes. "They refused to second a motion. What the public does as far as the petition or the ballot has no bearing on what we do here."

"We had an open forum and the opinions were divided down the middle," Keith said. "I think we have an obligation to hear the people who do not want burning as well as those who wish to burn. If they wish to burn then the idea is they will be paying for the privilege."

Kyle said he thought a $150 fee for the permit was too high.

"Personally, I wouldn't do anything right now, but if we did, it'd be $100."

The ordinance would impose a $50 fine for burning without a permit. The City Council would have authority to review hardship cases and reduce or eliminate individual fees as necessary.

The ordinance will receive its second reading at the next council meeting on July 17.

By then, Van Gordon said he expects to have his petitions turned in to the Jackson County Clerk's Office for verification.

"If people want to sign, they can still call me at 878-4811," he said. "I'll bring the petition to them."

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com

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