Property owner's questions lead to fire regulation postponement - ***video clip included

Friday, July 25, 2008
Holiday Island property owner David Blackford speaks to the Board of Commissioners of his concerns about the new wildland fire hazard regulation. Reg. 38, which mandates cleanup of brush piles and standing brush deemed to be a fire hazard, imposes a fine and/or property lien on property owners who don't comply within 30 days of notification. The regulation, which needed two readings to go into effect, had passed its first reading in June, but the board decided to table it indefinitely after Blackford's cautions and some concerns of commissioners. Kathryn Lucariello / Carroll County News

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- After a property owner raised concerns about the advisability of the Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District's new fire hazard regulation, the Board of Commissioners decided Monday to postpone its second reading of the document.

A regulation requires two readings for its passage. Reg. 38: Wildfire Hazard Mitigation passed its first reading in June.

The regulation requires property owners to remove from their lots brush piles and standing brush deemed to be hazardous in terms of possible wildfire. They have 30 days to remove it upon notification or risk a fine and subsequent possible property lien.

Property owner David Blackford brought a list of questions for the Board to consider. He was careful to preface his comments by expressing admiration and respect for Fire Chief Jack Deaton and the work he has done with the FireWise program to keep Holiday Island safe from wildfire devastation.

But Blackford expressed grave reservations about the district's means of enforcing Reg. 38.

"I have no doubt it's legal; whether it's advisable is another question," he said.

His questions dealt with whether the district can or has designated a "public nuisance" or imposed a "special assessment" or lien for a violation; whether any of the non-compliant lots are owned by the district itself or the developer; whether 30 days is sufficient notice to a non-resident property owner; and other considerations.

With regard to district-owned lots with brush piles and standing brush, which might describe several parcels, Blackford said, "You might be in a position to be called to task for not following the rules you're imposing on others."

He said he is not opposed to controlling fire hazards; "it's just how we do it."

Chief Deaton said he has had a difficult time encouraging the county to support the International Fire Code, which includes ways to mitigate wildland fire hazards, "so that's why Kevin (Crosson, district manager) and I talked about doing something at the local level."

Deaton said Reg. 38 was written based on "about 30 different regulations, but they were all from municipalities. No one else has tried this before -- we're in unchartered waters."

He and Crosson said the district can wait on the regulation's passage "until we're sure we can do this correctly."

He said in the interim, because the regulation has been under discussion and people have read about it, he is getting phone calls from people who want to know how to make their lots wildfire-safe.

"It's already starting to work," he said. "We just need to get it right before putting it on paper."

The board will postpone a vote on the second reading, said Chairman Harley Barnum.

In other business, the board:

* Discussed changes to Reg. 26-2002 with regard to the new golf discount card and the fees for group and individual use of district meeting facilities (see story above on this page).

* Discussed accepting the donation of a 1997 transportation van currently on loan from the Carroll County Activities Center. The van has 138,000 miles on it. Recreation Center Director Doug Joyce said he would look into fund-raising and organization donations to cover the cost of running, maintaining and insuring the van. He would like to expand the transportation program, he said.

* Discussed approving additional funding to the preliminary services portion of the contract with engineering firm McGoodwin, Williams & Yates for services related to the wastewater treatment plant permit and funding process. The increase in funding would bring that portion of the contract from $90,000 to $130,000.

The Board will meet Monday, July 28, at 9 a.m. at the district office at 110 Woodsdale Drive in a voting meeting. The public is welcome to attend.

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