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Open burning ordinance under scrutiny in Sugar Grove

Village Board to vote on revisions to open burning policy

The Village of Sugar Grove received numerous complaints from residents about smoke from leaf burning this fall, as it does every year. As a result, trustees are taking a close look at the village’s open burning policy.

A longstanding village ordinance allows outdoor burning of leaves and other landscape debris under certain conditions.

During the Dec. 4 Village Board meeting, 40-year resident Nancy Michelson said she objects to open burning for health reasons.

“I don’t see a reason for it,” said Michelson, who suffers from chronic bronchitis.

Michelson temporarily vacated her home in the fall after it was filled with smoke from neighbors’ leaf burning on a windy day. The village doesn’t permit leaf burning when the wind is greater than 10 mph, but Rollins said even then, smoke can drift into nearby houses.

Village resident Joe Wolf said the health hazard from outdoor smoke is “a serious problem that needs to be addressed by this board.”

“I agree,” Trustee Marj Johnson said. “It’s time we wise up.”

Aside from health, safety is another concern about smoke from open burning. Sugar Grove Police Chief Patrick Rollins told the board about an incident in which legal leaf burning caused smoke-out conditions on IL-56.

“One single residence open burning even with less than 10 mph winds resulted in plus-200-foot-thick haze causing in visibility issues while vehicles were traveling eastbound Route 56,” Rollins said.

A common complaint from residents is about unattended, smoldering piles of leaves, which violate the open burning ordinance.

“I wish people weren’t so rude,” Johnson said. “You can’t get that smell out of your house.”

Michelson noted that the village provides free leaf pickup and said people should take advantage of that option instead of burning. However, many people prefer burning because bagging leaves can be labor intensive, particularly for those with heavily wooded lots.

Johnson said even for residents with many trees, bagging leaves can be done.

“It’s is not convenient, but it’s not impossible, Johnson said.

The Village Board will vote on whether to revise the open burning policy at a future meeting.

The village limits the burning of leaves and other landscape debris to the hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The burning must take place at least 20 feet from any public right of way and any structure. All fires must be attended by an adult and be completely extinguished by 6 p.m.

Violators face fine and court costs and possible reimbursement to the village for fire department costs incurred extinguishing an illegal fire.

Trustees currently are not considering banning recreational fires, which currently are allowed if they are less than 3 feet in diameter and burn only untreated wood within a contained area anytime between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

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