Glenwood debates its woodstove ban
June 6, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The city’s ban on new wood- and other solid fuel-burning devices remains in effect for now, though a majority of the Glenwood Springs City Council seems willing to consider relaxing the rules.
At its June 2 meeting, council voted 4-3 to reject a motion by Councilman Stephen Bershenyi to maintain the city ordinance as is and end the discussion.
However, the rules remain in effect until council considers what, if any, changes to make.
Enacted in 1995, the ordinance prohibits the installation of any new woodstoves, fireplaces, pellet stoves and coal burners. Stoves that existed prior to that time have been allowed to remain, and can also be replaced by newer EPA-certified stoves.
“I don’t see the air quality in Glenwood Springs going down the drain if we do this,” Mayor Matt Steckler said of possible revisions to allow new stove installations, as long as they meet current EPA emissions standards.
Steckler and Councilman Todd Leahy also said the city should encourage owners of older stoves and fireplaces to replace them with newer stoves or gas-burning inserts.
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A requirement that older stoves be replaced within two years after a property changes hands also needs to be better enforced, they said.
“I still feel that not many people are going to choose to burn wood anyway, and if we encouraged the replacement [of existing stoves] with newer ones, it could be a good thing,” Leahy said.
Steckler and Leahy were joined by councilmen Ted Edmonds and Mike Gamba in leaving the question open for further discussion.
But, with evidence that even the newer solid fuel burning devices still present a significant health risk, especially in a tight valley such as the one Glenwood Springs is situated in, Bershenyi lobbied to keep the regulations as they are.
He noted that he suffers from asthma and as a kid had to cope with winter days when smoke filled the valley.
“The ban has been a real boon to people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions,” Bershenyi said. “We have a singular asset here in our air quality.”
While the city can’t control such things as the smoke from wildfires that blew into the area in recent days, “this is something we can control, and it makes a difference,” he said.
According to EPA information compiled by city planner A’Lissa Gerum, natural gas furnaces are still considered far cleaner burning than woodstoves.
“One certified woodstove emits as much particulate matter as 168 gas furnaces,” she noted in a memo to council members. “One uncertified woodstove emits as much particulate matter as 554 gas furnaces.”
Local resident and business owner Calvin Lee spoke against changing the city ordinance.
While some neighboring communities, including Carbondale and Rifle, allow new stove installations, Glenwood Springs’ geography means it is more affected by inversion days in the winter when smoke can be trapped on the valley floor, he noted.
Lee also cited the lack of a public demand to loosen the restrictions. Council agreed to revisit the ordinance after a request from a single property owner.
“I would suggest you take a poll to see where the majority of people stand on this,” Lee said.
Councilman Ted Edmonds said he would be open to allowing wood pellet stoves, which burn more cleanly than regular woodstoves.
Councilmen Leo McKinney and Dave Sturges voted to keep the ordinance as is and close the discussion.
“This code was written with a lot of foresight, and I can’t support changing it now,” McKinney said.
Mayor Steckler asked for more information from staff on enforcement options as a way to weed out older stoves, as well as alternatives for allowing new stove installations outside the current ban. The discussion will continue at a future meeting.