2010 March 4: MN Stillwater: City firm on ban of wood-burning stoves

2010 March 4: MN Stillwater: City firm on ban of wood-burning stoves

By Peter Cox – Stillwater Gazette

Published: Thursday, March 4, 2010 1:36 PM CST
The smoke in the air was too much for some neighbors, and Tuesday night, the Stillwater City Council decided to put the fire out.

The council passed the first reading of a city ordinance that effectively bans all wood-burning or boiling stoves – existing and future – in the city.

The stoves are used to heat homes, and have been shown to be a cheaper than conventional heating systems.

But that cost also brings the smoke of a wood-burning fire.

When Jeff Shaleen installed one at his home on the 900 block of Holcomb Street, his neighbors complained about it so much that several city council members commented that no issue had ever attracted so many calls and e-mails.

One neighbor, in an e-mail to the city council, said the smell is a big nuisance.

"Why should my family and three-year-old twin boys have to put up with smoke smell and haze all day every other day living in the city of Stillwater," wrote Scott DeMars, who lives next door.

"Those people that breathe air have greater rights than those than can install an outdoor wood-burning system with or with out a permit," DeMars added.

Shaleen, who went through the proper legal channels to build the stove, including getting building permits from city staff, was not happy.

"I went through a great deal to install the thing, it was very expensive to put in," he said. "I just feel that it’s wrong to demand that I take this boiler out at this point in time since I just put it in under a building permit."

Shaleen says he spent about $8,000 on installing the new heating system.

But the issue is one of both nuisance and health, the council said.

City Planner Mike Pogge presented the issue to the council Tuesday, pointing out that the stoves produce 12 times the amount of fine-particulate matter that indoor wood stoves produce, and 1,800 times the amount of particulate that comes from natural gas furnaces.

Councilman Jim Roush said that while Shaleen did go through the proper channels, it wasn’t something the city had dealt with before.

"You did everything right," he said. "This was uncharted territory for the city. Nobody really knew what the ramifications were."

The council approved the first reading 4-0, with Councilwoman Micky Cook absent.

The stove will not be grandfathered in.

The ordinance would go into effect when it is published, Pogge said.

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