If townspeople approve the measure, a new town ordinance would regulate the operation of all wood-burning furnaces in Killingworth, including a limitation on the number of months they can be burned.
Selectmen have endorsed the ordinance, and a number of other matters of governance, for discussion and a vote at a town meeting tentatively set for Sept. 7.
Both selectmen and the Planning and Zoning Commission began evaluating ways to regulate the use of wood-burning furnaces – the large outdoor units that have come into use for heating everything from swimming pools and garages to the vast greenhouses at Running Brook Farms on Route 80.
Both initiatives were spawned by complaints raised by Barbara and Gerard Irzyk about a neighbor’s wood-burning furnace that they say is polluting their property because it isn’t installed as specified by regulations and improper fuel is burned.
The state passed legislation in 2005 that regulates the use of wood-burning furnaces, and the PZC has adopted regulations that apply to them.
The problem is, as in the case of the Irzyk’s complaint, the PZC regulations cannot be applied to furnaces installed prior to the adoption of state statutes.
At the PZC’s urging, selectmen have drafted an ordinance that incorporates the regulatory language from the state statutes, limits the use of wood furnaces from Oct. 15 to May 1, and causes those regulations to be applicable to all Killingworth furnaces, regardless of the date of their installation.
The ordinance, mirroring state and PZC regulations, addresses the proper installation of wood furnaces and the type of fuel that may be burned within them.
Finally, it establishes a $90 fine for each day a furnace is operated in violation of the regulations.
“It essentially takes the state regs and makes them retroactive to pre-existing furnaces, and has a seasonal limit,” First Selectwoman Catherine Iino explained.
PZC Chairman Thomas Lentz, while supporting the adoption of the ordinance, said the PZC has tabled its consideration of stiffer language in Killingworth’s zoning regulations for furnaces.
At a public hearing, he said, “The main concern was the distance from a house that a furnace could be installed. We currently limit it to 200 feet, and the proposed distance was 500 feet. Some thought that was excessive.”
But Lentz said the matter also was tabled because the state also is considering revisions to its statutes. “We thought it was better to study it some more and wait to see what the state does,” he said.
Town officials are unsure how many wood furnaces were erected in Killingworth prior to 2005, but Lentz estimates that five or six now are in operation, the largest of them at Running Brook Farms Nursery.
When selectmen first discussed the matter last January, Town Foreman Walter Adametz, who is president of the Middlesex County Farm Bureau, told selectmen he opposed the ordinance. “Most complaints about wood furnaces come from people burning improper material or the improper use of a furnace,” he said.
Adametz said, when properly used, wood furnaces do not pollute. “There was a situation in Haddam with a contractor who was burning creosote-soaked wood posts,” he said. “If you’re burning dry, seasoned wood, there’s a little smoke at start-up. In the summer, it’s a different situation.”
The Irzyks’ neighbors are said to use their furnace year-round, and Selectman Fred Dudek, with Adametz concurring, said he would favor an ordinance limiting the type of fuel that can burned and the months a furnace can be operated.