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Commission approves ordinance limiting night burning
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County commissioners last week approved an ordinance that limits burning debris from construction sites to daytime hours.

Under the ordinance, areas of unincorporated Dawson County are required to have a permit from the department of natural resources to burn construction items hauled to open areas and may burn between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The ordinance passed 4-0 and includes county fines for violations.

District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon said complaints from residents living near a lot owned by the Big Canoe Property Owner's Association off Hubbard Road, where crews burn debris from construction sites inside the gated community, sparked the ordinance.

"What we were trying to do was write an ordinance ... to mitigate in a neighborhood the effect of smoke and that's the smoke effect happens at night. So this was designed to say if you're going to burn in an open burn and you're going to haul the stuff to a site, you cannot burn it at night," Pichon said.

Brent Covington said smoke from burns on the site has been an issue since he and his wife moved to Afton Road about eight years ago.

"My wife and I actually live about a quarter mile from this burn site. It has been 24 hours, around the clock with some burning there," he said.

According to Covington, his wife suffers from severe allergies to smoke from burning.

"She's had allergy tests done ... any type of wood burning, she's allergic to," he said. "The biggest concern is the health reasons."

Currently, under the state law, it is both illegal to burn at night and truck in waste to new areas to burn.

However, it is up to the EPD to interpret and enforce the laws, though provision under the state law allows exceptions to the rules based on what official is currently issuing permits and interpreting the laws.

It's the conflicted interpretations that led the board to consider a local ordinance.

Pichon said he and other residents have complained to the Big Canoe manager several times, as well as personally contacting the local Department of Natural Resources office.

According to Pichon, the site has been in trouble with the EPD in the past and has a history of violations.

Dick Scharf, vice president of Big Canoe Property Owner's Association, said the community wants to be good neighbors and added that new controls have been put in place since talks of the burn ordinance surfaced.

"We work in conjunction with both the Dawson County and the Pickens County fire folks. It's a very good relationship. We've got good processes with checks and balances. We're including tighter and tighter controls," he said.