NEW HARTFORD—It took two years for the Terras to get there, but on Wednesday evening their perseverance paid off: New Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a six-month moratorium on new outdoor wood burning furnace permits to give it time to research and discuss how and if OWFs should be regulated.
As Beth Terra, speaking in favor of a moratorium, reminded the Commission members: “In the last two years, I’ve been twice to the P&Z and twice to the Board of Selectmen, and now I’m here again.”
Terra spoke strongly in favor of a moratorium, saying that they had even replaced the windows in their home to try to keep the smoke from a neighbor’s OWF out but “the smoke penetrates everything.” It has affected the children’s health and she worries that it will affect that of her elderly parents.
Beth’s husband Larry Terra also spoke strongly in favor of a moratorium, as did fellow residents Matt Urmaza and Linda Martin. All of them said they are directly impacted by smoke from neighboring OWFs. First Selectman Dan Jerram, who had a scheduling conflict and was unable to be at the meeting, sent word to the commission that he supports a moratorium. No one spoke against the proposal.
Acting as chairman for the evening, longtime commission member Ted Stoutenberg reminded residents who had spoken in favor of a moratorium that any new zoning regulation regarding OWFs will not affect their situations: Any existing OWFs could only be regulated by a town ordinance, and for that they’d have to go back to the Board of Selectmen. The Terras acknowledged this, with Mrs. Terra saying simply: “I’m doing this for the future.”
With the public hearing closed, commission members discussed the moratorium proposal and agreed that six months is enough time to research other towns’ regulations. They also agreed that a moratorium should be put into effect as soon as possible to avoid the submission of new permit applications.
Commission members voted unanimously in favor of a moratorium, effective from the date of publication of the notice in the newspapers. Acting Zoning Enforcement Officer Rista Malanca said the commission’s timing is perfect because he has heard that the EPA will be announcing new regulations for OWFs by Jan. 15. Malanca said she would gather EPA information and share it with the commission.
It’s likely the issue of outdoor wood burning furnaces will come up during the 2011 session of the General Assembly. Over the past few years several bills have been proposed to limit or eliminate the sale or use of outdoor wood burning furnaces through prohibitions on sale and construction and regulations on wood smoke.
According to a recent Office of Legislative Research report, advocates for regulation and prohibition cite environmental and health concerns; opponents argue that (1) the furnaces use a renewable resource and provide less expensive heating and (2) the matter should be left to municipal governments.
Nancy Alderman of Environment and Human Health Inc. has said OWFs already have been banned in Granby, Tolland, Hebron, Woodbridge, South Windsor, Portland, Norfolk, Ridgefield, Haddam, Cheshire, West Hartford, Hamden, North Haven and Avon.
Maria Moore is editor of NewHartfordPlus.com, a hyperlocal news website in New Hartford, CT