City prohibits wood boilers

September 9, 2011

By Pat Maurer

Review Correspondent

“Where in the City Charter does it say that you have the right to tell people what type of heating they can use?”

The question came from Clare resident Mel Johns at the Clare City meeting Tuesday evening.

The City Commission was considering the adoption of an ordinance change which prohibits outdoor wood-fired boilers in all zoning districts of the City except industrial districts.

City Manager Ken Hibl responded to Johns’ concern saying, “The City of Clare is a home rule city and has the right to make ordinances.”

Johns continued, “What is the reason? There has to be a reason for this.”

Hibl responded, “Public Safety.”

He continued, “We are not the only municipality who prohibits that.” He said the Fire Marshal/ Building Inspector and Fire Chief had both recommended that the City amend its current burning ordinance to prohibit the boilers.

Fire Chief James Chapman said the concerns were blight and smoke. “This is not something we brought to you with ease. According to the State, outdoor wood fired boilers are the leading cause and the largest numbers of citizen’s complaints. It’s not just smoke, its rodents, large wood storage and noise.”

Johns said, “I don’t see the problem with wood. Why re you sticking your noses in what you shouldn’t. If you do this, what else will be next?”

Commissioner John Koch said, “The small lots in town are not designed for wood boilers. This is just a health and safety hazard.”

Johns added, “What makes you think gas or oil don’t put pollutants into the air. Come on people, I am a chemical engineer.” He continued, “You do have the right to stipulate all of the regulations in an ordinance, but you don’t have the right to regulate how a citizen can heat his home.”

Hibl said the matter could be handled through restrictions. He told the Commission, “Certainly the Ctiy staff can talk to an expert, get some recommendations. You can pass it, or kill it tonight (the ordinance change).

Commissioner Tom Koch said he thought the issue could be resolved with regulation on the use of boilers rather than prohibiting them.

John Koch disagreed. “I think this is one of the best ordinance [changes] to come before the Commission,” he said.

Following the lengthy discussion, The City Commission voted 4-1, with Tom Koch voting no, to adopt the ordinance change prohibiting the boilers except in industrial districts.

In another matter, the Commission approved a $7,298 expenditure to restore the 110 year-old Civil War Monument at Cherry Grove Cemetery. American Marble and Granite Works in Clare will reface and re-inscribe the monument and add a four-foot Union soldier to the top. The project has been a part of the Cemetery Advisory Boards wish list for the past five years.

Despite another citizen complaint, the Commission reappointed Jon Ringleberg to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. The vote was approved 4-1 with Commissioner John Koch voting no.

Former board member Kelly Koch spoke about the agenda item. “In January, 2010, Mayor Humphrey kicked me off the board under the guise of changing committee members more often, but since then I’ve seen no changes. You are still doing things the same way.”

Other business at the City meeting included:


*Approval of an Industrial Facilities Exemption for Alro Steel Corporation for new equipment.

*A second reading and approval of a zoning change to C-1 for the Lapham property on the east edge of Clare.

*Approval of a low bid of $32,000 from Pitsch Companies to demolish the old decommissioned Waste Water Treatment Plant. The cost was estimated at $90,000.

*Approval of a low bid of $52,230 for biosolids removal, transportation and disposal from the WWTP.

*Designation of Pat Humphrey as primary and Bill Horwood as alternate voting delegate at the Michigan Municipal League Annual meeting.

*Approval of an ordinance change to allow, with permit, farm animals on larger city parcels and allow any resident to keep two chickens with a permit.

*A report that the Dunlop Street project is complete.

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