Wood-burning stove talks heat back up
For the last five months, no one could install a wood-burning appliance in the Snyderville Basin. With a little more than a month left before a temporary ban expires, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission is scheduled to consider making it permanent.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 14, at 6 p.m. at the Sheldon Richins Building.
Once the ban was in place, the Planning Department began crafting language that could be included in the Snyderville Basin Development Code to address wood-burning appliances. The Planning Commission will only be making a recommendation to the County Council, who will ultimately decide the ban’s fate.
Ray Milliner, Summit County planner, said the language the Planning Commission will be considering is similar to the language contained in the temporary moratorium, which prohibits installing wood-burning appliances, such as stoves and fireplaces, in the Basin. There would be some exceptions, excluding people who do not have access to gas or propane and those who use wood-burning as their sole source of heat.
However, the ban won’t prevent someone from burning wood in a fireplace and it doesn’t apply to those with existing units.
Several residents and developers attended a hearing in February with the County Council objecting to the ban, with most claiming that wood-burning stoves and appliances are synonymous with the ski culture.
But Summit County Health Department officials have urged the Planning Commission and County Council to continue the ban. Representatives from the Health Department are scheduled to attend the hearing.
"The purpose of that is to keep any air quality issues that we possibly foresee coming down the road in the future from occurring," said Phil Bondurant, Summit County director of environmental health. "I think that’s what the intent is with this."
As Summit County continues to grow at a rapid pace, "we know wood-burning does wreak havoc" on air quality, Bondurant said.
"If we are at a level now that is manageable, but we are beginning to see an increase, why would we not want to stop that and essentially preserve our clean air moving into the future?" he posed in an interview with The Park Record.
But the Health and the planning departments have worked collaboratively to not only provide the science behind supporting a ban, but also gauge the level of support a ban would have from various stakeholders.
"This isn’t something we came up with on our own," Bondurant said. "It was a very collaborative effort to get best rule possible to protect air quality."
Planning Commission Chair Mike Franklin said he fully supports a permanent ban, adding that the rest of the commission is "generally supportive of it."
"I believe it will be positive recommendation," Franklin said. "There are a lot of health issues surrounding wood-burning appliances. If you go into Park City, for example, around Christmastime and you walk outside, the smoke is thick. So I can see going in that direction."
While the discussions are heating up in western Summit County, the topic has essentially been absent from conversation on the county’s east side.
Bondurant said the topography of eastern Summit County does not create the same situation of air trapping the Basin does. He said a ban has not been considered for that part of the county.
"We don’t have the big Basin and the bowl that essentially locks air in," he said. "You get more open and wide spaces so it disperses and so you don’t see it accumulate."
The hearing on Tuesday is one of six public hearings, with the potential for action, scheduled with the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission. The commission will also consider approving a permit request by the county to begin building on a Kimball Junction transit center.
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