2010 April 1: MN Inver Grove Heights: Wood burners heating up debate in Inver Grove Heights

2010 April 1: MN Inver Grove Heights: Wood burners heating up debate in Inver Grove Heights

Outdoor wood-burners and boilers are popular with users, but not with some of their Inver Grove Heights neighbors.

By JOY POWELL and KATIE HUMPHREY, Star Tribune staff writers

Last update: April 1, 2010 – 7:17 AM

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Inver Grove Heights is the latest south-metro suburb to tackle the issue of outdoor wood burners and boilers and the smoke they emit, after a resident complained to the City Council.
It’s a refrain that has risen in communities throughout the area since the cost of natural gas began climbing high a decade ago and people began a quest for alternative heating sources.
Especially popular in rural areas, the units are housed in tiny shacks with a smokestack. They can stand anywhere from 30 feet to as far away as 500 feet from a home or a building. Inside the shacks, a water jacket surrounds the firebox and heat exchanger. Heated water is circulated to a house or building, and in one case, to an Inver Grove Heights swimming pool.
But the use of the boilers and burners in the suburbs is not always popular with the neighbors, some of whom get smoking mad.
"They can create nuisances when they are in more of an urban setting," said Terri Dill, a senior planner with the city of Savage. "The smoke and soot can actually go into your neighbor’s house."
Dill said Savage started considering an outdoor wood boiler policy in late 2008 because residents started calling to ask whether the devices were permitted. After a study of the pollution produced by many outdoor wood boilers, the Savage City Council decided last May to ban them in all areas of the city. One existing unit was grandfathered in.
Burnsville passed an ordinance in 2009 that prohibits the appliances. Stillwater did the same in March.
Now, the Inver Grove Heights council has directed staff members to delve into the issue and report back later this month with the findings, said City Administrator Joe Lynch.
He and other staff members are looking into potential health effects and regulations in other communities in the metro. They will also consider what, if anything, should be done about the four or so already up and running, Lynch said.
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