Council overrides burn law veto

Bellevue Council voted to override the mayor’s veto of a controversial open burning ordinance when officials met Tuesday evening.

The ordinance -- which is similar to county regulations on burning and ordinances in place in every community surrounding Bellevue -- also includes a section that addresses the placement of grills used for cooking food. The ordinance requires that grills be placed no closer than five feet from a combustible surface such as a house, deck, fence, etc. Exceptions are provided for grills specifically designed for deck or patio use when the manufacturer deems the grill safe for use in less space. Residents who have built-in grills or special circumstances also can consult the borough’s fire marshal about whether the grill can be used safely in the desired location.

The grilling regulations were among the reasons cited by Mayor George Doscher when he vetoed the ordinance that was adopted by council on June 12.

Opponents who spoke at the meeting argued that the cost of inspecting the location of every grill in the borough would lead to tax hikes and service cuts. However, inspections of grills are not required by the ordinance. Only inspections of fire pits are required as part of obtaining a one-time, no-cost permit.

Council president Linda Woshner said that council’s intent was to educate residents about the safe use of grills and fire pits. Fire marshals would get involved with grill placement only if they received a complaint or there was a mishap involving the grill. Even then, she said, the fire marshals would issue warnings and educational materials before anyone was cited. The ordinance carries a fine of up to $1,000.

“We’re here for education,” she said. “We’re not going to be quick to cite.”

Woshner also asked opponents to reconsider opposition tactics that have included personal attacks and “dragging Bellevue through the mud.”

Council, she said, has treated opponents with respect, and even changed portions of the ordinance based on their comments.

“Council’s intent is not to harass people,” Woshner said. “We can warn you. We can educate you. If you still don’t get it, we can cite you.”

Council needed at least six votes to override the mayor’s veto, and that was exactly how many it got. Council members Mark Helbling, Frank Camello and Kathy Coder voted to uphold the veto. Coder participated in the meeting by phone only until the vote was taken.

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