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Mayor casts rare veto on backyard burning ban

The city went too far in banning backyard burning, Mayor Michael W. Tucker said Friday in explaining his decision to veto a Common Council resolution on the subject.

The Council unanimously passed the measure Tuesday, making illegal the use of outdoor boilers that can be used to heat homes, as well as fire pits, fireplaces and other appliances used for outdoor burning.

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, who sponsored the measure with the support of Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite, said he doesn't expect any effort to override Tucker's veto.

"I think we'll just tweak [the resolution]," Schrader said. "It's not like we want to be boss of the world."

Council President John Lombardi III, R-5th Ward, said he agreed with the veto.

"We need to put a little more effort into reviewing the pros and cons of resolutions," said Lombardi, who recently bought his own fire pit. Tucker said Lombardi did not lobby him for a veto.

Tucker said he was in his office Tuesday and missed most of the discussion about the measure prior to the formal Council business meeting.

He said he didn't realize how wide-ranging the resolution was until he listened to City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney reading it aloud before the vote.

Tucker said he agrees with Passuite's desire to ban wood-burning boilers that can be used to heat homes.

"Obviously, those are good in rural areas, but in the city [homes are] too close together," Tucker said.

"At the end of the day, I don't think we should ban fire pits or those little things you can buy at Valu. You can't legislate everything," he said.

He said he thought about the issue during an Independence Day cookout and decided to cast a rare veto.

The mayor said he had received just one e-mail of complaint from a resident before doing so.

But Schrader said the heat was on from constituents. "Citizens panicked. They thought we were banning grilling," he said.

Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said open burning is against the law all over the county if the fire is too large.

Stapleton said the county sanitary code contains a provision limiting outdoor fires to three logs, none of which may be larger than six inches in diameter or 18 inches long.

He said municipalities may be stricter than that but not more lenient.

Stapleton said the county has two cases pending of possible $200 fines against open burning violators, and they may be voted upon by the Board of Health as soon as July 17.

Schrader said he got a look at a situation Thursday night that showed why he thought outdoor burning should be banned.

"I looked down Ashley Place, and there were two houses six feet apart and nothing but smoke. That's the kind of thing we want to stop," he said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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