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Will County board still debating open leaf burning issue

Updated: February 18, 2014 6:34AM



Another attempt to restrict leaf burning in unincorporated areas of Will County was snuffed out Thursday by the county board, which sent the issue back to its public health and safety committee for more discussion at the committee’s Feb. 13 meeting.

Committee chairman Joe Babich, D-Joliet, brought the revised ordinance up for a vote, but the board decided that last-minute amendments by members Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, and Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Square, should go back through the committee.

The committee originally considered banning outside fires within 100 feet of a structure but then loosened that to 50 feet. It also added a provision prohibiting open burning within 1,000 feet of a school, park, hospital, nursing home or residence of a person with a chronic respiratory disease — exempting controlled burns, firefighter training and conservation areas.

But Moustis said the 1,000-foot restriction would amount to banning all open burning in unincorporated areas.

“That is a game changer,” he said, proposing that the provision be dropped.

Short of that, Moustis wants to add recreational fires, such as charcoal grills and fire pits, to the list of exempted uses.

Other board members questioned whether an open burning law is enforceable or even necessary.

“The big issue is that it’s unenforceable. It has a lot of words but no meat,” board member Diane Zigrossi, D-Crest Hill, said.

Board member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said the board must decide if a tougher law on open burning can be enforced effectively and what people will do with their leaves if they cannot burn them.

Given that Will County is so diverse, such an ordinance “is not one size fits all,” member Robert Howard, D-Beecher, said.

“I’m so confused,” board member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, told her fellow members. “You don’t want burning for health reasons, but you support the (proposed third) airport. An airport will have a more dramatic effect on your air quality, and that is an everyday occurrence.”

The public health and safety committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 13 in the county board committee room, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.



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