Dawson County officials have agreed to move forward with public hearings on a proposed ordinance that would limit where debris from construction sites can be burned.
If approved, the ordinance would apply only to open burning of materials hauled to the burn site from other premises.
A permit from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources would be required to burn materials brought from another location, according to a draft of the ordinance, which would also limit burning between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The hearings are scheduled during the county commission's meetings on May 1 and 15. The meetings start at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Dawson County Government Center.
The proposed ordinance came about after county officials received complaints from neighbors who live near a site in western Dawson County owned by the Big Canoe Property Owners Association.
District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon said neighbors have complained about smoke from construction and vegetation debris piles burned on the Hubbard Road lot.
The complaints also led to an investigation by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which issued the association a notice of violation for unpermitted surface mining and solid waste disposal operations at the site.
Kelly Adams, surface mining unit manager for the EPD, has said there was also evidence that burning was taking place at the site, though no violations were cited
Last week, representatives from Big Canoe met with EPD to review the violations.
"We learned about surface mining and the permits required for that operation," said Mark Johnson, assistant general manager. "Now that we understand what we were doing wrong, the intent is to move forward as good citizens and do the right thing to be in compliance."
Surface mining operations have been regulated by EPD since 1968 and require a permit prior to starting any soil removal or land disturbance on lots larger than 1.1 acres.
No fines have been assessed, though noncompliance could result in some at a later date.
Adams has previously said officials were more interested in determining if the association wanted to continue with what the state considered surface mining operation. If so, it would have to file an application within 45 days.
A $15,000 bond is also required as insurance that the land will be reclaimed once the surface mining operation is complete.
"And we're very willing to do that," Johnson said.
Adams has said the impact on people from the operation is minimal, and that "the biggest concern would be the smoke from the fire, but even that [is] more of a nuisance than an environmental issue from a public health standpoint."
The surface mining unit's primary function is protecting natural resources and preventing "the sediment from reaching public waters."