Ban on wood-burning appliances in the Snyderville Basin
For the next six months, the installation of wood-burning appliances is prohibited in the Snyderville Basin as a result of Summit County Councilors approving a temporary ban on Wednesday.
"We have, as a council, made it a goal to address air quality issues in our county," County Council member Claudia McMullin said. "The change from this ban may or may not be great or effective immediately, but we are at least stopping the addition of any more particulates in the air from that source. Whether it’s a big step or a small step, it’s a necessary step at a minimum."
The temporary moratorium covers wood-burning appliances, including fireplaces and wood stoves. However, it does not place any additional regulations on wood burning itself.
The Snyderville Basin Development Code already regulates the installation of wood-burning appliances and requires appliances to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.
"The rationale is that planning staff would like to look at the big issues to come up with some permanent language to then be put into our Snyderville Basin Development Code," said Ray Milliner, Summit County planner.
The ban applies to the installation of appliances in new developments or remodels in the Snyderville Basin. It doesn’t impact the East Side or existing developments.
"I think we’ve delayed the conversation long enough," said Rich Bullough, Summit County health director. "We have large developments coming on line and I think we need to deal with it and we need to address it now.
"We’ve all seen the inversion," Bullough added. "And anecdotally we’ve seen more of these inversions in the Snyderville Basin."
About three years ago, the valleys surrounding Summit County had pollution levels worse than Beijing, Bullough said.
"We don’t want that to be our future," he said. "It’s a whole lot easier to address this situation now and moving forward than we can in the years after. Right now I can tell people to come to our part of the world and you’ll be fine. I’d love to be able to continue to say that."
Susan Martin, a Snyderville Basin resident who testified at the hearing, was in full support of the ban. Martin said she moved from Salt Lake City to Summit County "for better air quality."
"I would love to see this happen and I think it is a great first step to get it out there in the mindset of people," Martin said. "I know it took years to get smoking out of our culture and we need to get this out of our culture. I don’t think it needs to be part of the ski culture that you also sit there and inhale wood fumes.
"This is the first step toward an even broader discussion on additional changes we can make in the future to be more and more aware of what this can do to our health," Martin said.
Not everyone was in favor, though.
Justin Ross, a member of the organization Utahns for Responsible Burning, said the ban doesn’t fully address the problem associated with wood-burning appliances.
"The ticket is getting all the old ones out," Ross said. "And moving forward in new construction isn’t going to affect the old stoves out in the Snyderville Basin."
Bill Coleman, a Park City real estate executive, said the temporary ban creates problems for developers as they enter the building season.
"The temporary nature of the moratorium creates quite a dilemma in our building industry," Coleman said. "We are modifying something that might get modified again in six months.
"Everybody appreciates the need for clean air," Coleman added. "But my comments are mainly around the practical side of this because there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution. There is something to be gained here, I get that, but for everybody to just say zip for six months right during building season, which we are about to enter, when they’ve had plans going for a while is a mistake."
The County Council voted 4-0 in favor of the ban. County Councilman Dave Ure had to leave the meeting prior to the vote being cast. The County Council approved language to address concerns about the ban’s effect on remodeling and people who use wood-burning appliances as a financial necessity.
McMullin said air quality is one of the issues County Council members hear about the most from constituents.
"The fact is for years we hear about air quality and traffic," McMullin said. "We are being bold and aggressive with our traffic and I believe we should be equally bold and aggressive in addressing air quality issues in our community, knowing our community wants us to do so."
Jennifer McDonald, a self-described lifelong Republican, was selected as the Summit County Republican Party chair last week.