By Jeanne Sager
ROSCOE June 27, 2006 What was meant to be an information-gathering meeting may have fed the fires of discontent in the Town of Rockland.
With two other county towns drafting laws regulating outdoor wood furnaces and possible state directives coming down the pike, Supervisor Pat Pomeroy has been doing a lot of research.
But after reading reports from both the state attorney generals office and the manufacturers of the outdoor stoves, Pomeroy wanted to hear what the residents had to say.
Thursday evening, she called a town meeting at the Rockland Firehall in Roscoe that drew a standing-room-only crowd.
I was accused of taking away peoples rights by even discussing this, Pomeroy said.
But there are two sides to the story, she added.
People have the right to breathe clean air, and people have the right to heat their homes.
We have to come up with a compromise here so everyone can live comfortably, Pomeroy explained.
Listing other New York State municipalities that have already drafted legislation, some of which have banned the devices entirely, Pomeroy cautioned residents to remember this was a fact-finding mission only.
We dont have a draft ordinance, she said. Were still in the investigative stage because were trying to get as much information as possible.
Opening the floor to the crowd, Pomeroy heard an earful from residents who are against regulating the stoves along with one couple who listed reasons to make some changes at least in the downtown districts.
Betty Gross of Roscoe lives next door to someone with a stove.
Ive never smelled anything from it, she said. I find it in no way detrimental.
Wayne Meyer concurred hes got three stoves installed at three separate houses.
Ive never seen dark smoke come out of any of them, he said. I feel that people who are burning the wrong material, yes, they should be taken to task.
But the manufacturers instructions clearly describe what should go in the furnace and what shouldnt.
If you cant read, dont get one! Meyer said.
His wife Jeannette said theyve already begun construction on a heated pool which they planned to heat with the furnace.
Regulations could cause a problem for people who are using the stoves for hot water and for people who have made investments to use these stoves, she said.
Not to mention the town itself.
Roscoe resident Ed Park pondered who would be enforcing new laws especially a stipulation bandied about that smoke be a certain color.
Are we looking at more town employees? Someone going around looking at these? he asked.
Regulations that ban the stoves could spell disaster for some people.
In this day and age, with the price of oil . . . theres a lot of people you told em they cant burn wood anymore, theyre going to go cold, Parks warned.
There should be some grandfathering, he noted.
Mary Jo Horton spoke to the personal hardships her family would face without their stove.
The Cooks Falls mother of four said her husband already spends well over $500 a month just to commute to his job an hour away.
Oil prices make heating their home any other way impossible.
I cant afford oil, plain and simple, she said.
Horton challenged the attorney generals claims that the stoves cause an increase in health risks.
Whoevers saying emission from wood is polluting . . . how many of you smoke? she asked.
The regulations also drew criticism from Roscoe Fire Chief Jason Rogers.
If youve got an outdoor stove, I dont have to worry about you having a chimney fire, he said.
But, he admitted, they arent always the cleanest-burning devices.
Ive seen some putting out smoke as dark as the brick wall behind you, Rogers said.
Pete DeVantier seldom sees smoke and he burns a stove at his business as well as his home.
Im burning it right now, my windows are wide open, my mothers windows are wide open, he said.
But Miriam Stone closes her windows when her neighbor lights his up.
Stone owns property on Roscoes main drag.
I think anyone on an acre, even a half-acre, if their neighbor doesnt have a problem with it, I dont have a problem, she said.
But she said there needs to be a regulation in place for the high-density areas of Rockland.
In the winter, if you come down off of Tennanah or Johnston Mountain, there is a fog or a smog or a smoke over this whole area, she said.
But Stones neighbor, Vern Francisco, said he put in a stove with his neighbors in mind.
He put in a 37-foot chimney, he made his woodpile neat. When the DEC was called, they said his stove met all their guidelines.
From my point of view, I dont know what more I can do, Francisco said.
Its unhealthy, Stone contended. We love our country here because its got clean water and clear air.
Our water is pure lets keep our air pure.
Mike Hill said the environment is the very reason he put in a wood-burning stove coupled with a concern for safety.
One of the great selling points, having a family, is you take the fire out of the home. I sleep a lot better not having the fire down in my basement, Hill said.
But if the woodstoves go, whats next, he asked.
Anything can happen to our oil supply, but short of major devastation, nothings going to happen to our wood, said Dale Dutcher.
The other big issue on the table was the suggestion that setback requirements be built into town zoning.
The proposal would allow people to put in a stove only if it was x number of feet from their neighbors building.
Were talking about where someone can come in and tell you what to do with your property, said Russ Wakeman. What we do with our property that we pay taxes on . . . thats our business.
If these issues are being addressed on a state level, why add another level of government to the mix, asked Glenn Halloran, a Callicoon Center resident who sells outdoor furnaces.
Pomeroy said theres nothing set in stone the town may not put laws on the books.
But the town board will be considering a moratorium on outdoor furnaces at its next meeting on July 6 at 1:30 p.m. at the town hall in Livingston Manor, she said, and this issue will continue to be studied.