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Solon council member proposes burn ban

By Doug Lindner
Solon Economist
SOLON– “I don’t know if that’s going to be tomorrow or five years or 10 years, but society is moving toward not allowing burning in city limits,” Mayor Cami Rasmussen said. “It’s coming– that day is going to come.”
And it may come soon.
Council member Brad Kunkel thinks the time has come to prohibit open burning in the city of Solon.
At last week’s Solon City Council meeting, Kunkel requested the city consider a burn ban, and the subject will be further discussed at a Feb. 15 meeting.
“We have now established a program that works,” Kunkel said, referring to the city’s curbside leaf and bundled-branch collection program.
“We provide alternatives to dispose of your yard waste. To me the time has come to look at this issue again and take the next step to prohibit burning yard waste in town,” he continued.
That sentiment was not shared by former council member Sue Ballantyne.
Ballantyne argued the city has not provided an alternative for the waste generated by gardens, bushes and flowers.
“To tell me that I’m going to have to take the waste from my tomato plants, my raspberry plants, from my whole garden, somehow stuff them in the trunk of my car and make several trips myself to the Johnson County Landfill to dispose of them,” Ballantyne said, “or to pay a dollar a bag and be spending a hundred dollars more a season– I don’t think that’s very fair.”
If the city wants to ban burning, she said, it will need to provide residents with an affordable, reasonable alternative for garden waste.
“Have you ever tried composting?” Kunkel replied.
Ballantyne said she preferred not to compost because of a rodent problem in her neighborhood.
She said North Liberty provides a service that picks up bundles of garden waste weekly.
“That seems reasonable,” Kunkel concurred.
But there are a lot of gardens in Solon, and staffing a pick-up program may be a big consideration for the city, Rasmussen noted during the meeting.
And some residents have more than just a garden.
“I have nine deciduous trees, three Colorado spruces, 10 cedars, eight boxwoods, two yews, three hollies, 11 lilacs, 12 peonies, two ornamental grasses, a burning bush and several other little shrubs,” said Solon resident Steve Linn. “That produces a lot of clippings.”
Linn said he utilized the city’s services every week it was available and continued to have piles of yard waste. “I don’t know what I would do with all that stuff if I couldn’t burn it,” he continued.
“There is a fall odor sometimes, but I guess I’ve lived with that my whole life,” Linn told Kunkel. “When I moved to Solon, everyone had a 55-gallon barrel out back and they burned garbage. That was an odor.”
“Put yourself in my shoes,” Kunkel replied. Living in a neighborhood where open burning is frequent, with infants and young children in the house, it becomes an issue, he said. “It makes me start to feel like I can’t go outside and walk the dog enjoyably or leave the windows open at night to not run the air conditioning,” he said. “One person’s fire really does affect a lot of people.”
Kunkel said his proposal would not eliminate recreational burning, which is currently allowed by city code.
According to City Administrator Cassandra Lippincott, recreational fires for cooking, heating or ceremonies are permitted as long as they comply with limits for the emission of visible air contaminants established by the Department of Natural Resources.
Kunkel suggested the drafting of a new ordinance, but interim City Attorney Jim Martinek requested a specific direction, which the rest of council members couldn’t provide.
The city is expected to review possible alternatives with Public Works Director Scott Kleppe and revisit the issue at the council’s next regular meeting Feb. 15.