Stove issue heats up council meeting
Despite objections by many Truckee real estate agents, town council moved forward with a point-of-sale woodstove replacement program last week, directing town staff to draft an ordinance requiring replacement of obsolete woodstoves at the time of sale, and replacement of all obsolete woodstoves within seven years.
Council split 3-2 on the proposal, with councilmembers Don McCormack, Maia Schneider and Mayor Josh Susman voting in favor. Councilmembers Ron Florian and Bob Drake opposed the proposal, and a motion they supported – returning the matter to the planning commission for further consideration and public comment, was not adopted.
Town staff now must return to council with a revised plan, which will require any non-EPA-certified woodstove to be replaced, either when a home sells or at the end of seven years.
Schneider strongly supported the point-of-sale program, stating that Truckee’s air quality was of paramount importance.
“I disagree with the notion that things are not as bad as they appear,” Schneider said. “You know the air quality is going downhill. I’ve been here for five years and I have seen it go downhill. We’ve got to do this and we don’t need to wait around for it.”
McCormack also voiced support, although he acknowledged the opposition to the move.
“I would not send it back to the planning commission,” he said. “We are here to make decisions. This is a tough decision because there is opposition. The opposition is from a very small part of the community.”
He said the planning commission proposal was not as aggressive as it could have been, and that it still was not completely fair.
“It took us a long time to get fair on snow removal fees,” McCormack said. “You get fair in small steps. This room is filled with the real estate community and
we heard from them, but I guarantee that your public wants cleaner air. ” He said the measure was aggressive, but not burdensome.
Susman said his main concern was that anything proposed should be fair.
“I’m pushing for an equitable solution, so that if a burden is imposed on one part of the community, it is imposed on all parts of the community,” he said. “I’ll wait to see what staff drafts for the next meeting.”
Drake, who sought to send the point-of-sale proposal back to the planning commission for further review, said the Realtors are members of the public, and should be treated as such.
“Why is it when we have a room full of people who are absolutely for no growth, that it’s the public speaking, but when you have a room filled by members of a responsible group, it’s suddenly a vested interest?” he asked. “The Realtors are representing their buyers and sellers, not themselves.”
Rod Hill, the Air Pollution Control Officer for the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, praised the town’s revised plan.
“It’s the best air quality management plan I’ve ever read,” Hill said. “It explains clearly and completely what the issues are. My recommendation would be to adopt it with the control strategy. You need it to get where you want to go.”
He said that if Truckee has one more day where it exceeds particulate matter pollution standards, it will be in a state of non-attainment, which could result in stringent federal controls.
Before calling a vote, council heard from many Realtors, who said they felt the proposal for point-of-sale replacement unfairly singled out those residents who were selling or buying a home.
“We all want clean air,” Steve Carpenter of Prudential said. “We have an issue with the process.”
Carpenter, who served on the committee which developed the air quality management plan and is also a former Truckee mayor, said the plan as originally proposed was the product of consensus.
“We supported 12 recommended control strategies and listed eight other possible control strategies,” Carpenter said. “The original strategies were to be evaluated for two years, before taking a look at the others.”
The point-of-sale replacement proposal was one of the eight alternate strategies listed in the plan, but not recommended by the committee.
Realtor Herschel Deardorff also expressed opposition.
“The most efficient way to do this would be a date-certain changeout,” he said. ‘Why not implement a grid pattern like Truckee Fire Protection District did for defensible space?”
Deardorff said he has heard that point-of-sale replacement is not efficient, and that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is having problems enforcing a similar policy in the Tahoe Basin.
Charlie White, owner of Donner Lake Realty, questioned the impact of the proposal on out-of-town buyers, sellers and real estate agents, who might not be aware of the requirements.
Don Casler of Century 21 Realty said the proposal was based on the idea that there’s money to spare when a home changes hands.
“During the sale of a home, money is tight,” Casler said. “Often the homebuyer is financially extended. Any additional burden might lessen their ability to buy the home they seek. To first -time homebuyers, that could make the difference between a sufficient or insufficient downpayment.”
Casler said he has reason to want clean air, but disagreed with the point-of-sale proposal.
“I am a person with one lung,” he said. “I moved to Truckee to get out of Southern California. I also have sever sinus problems and I feel you should take any steps necessary to ensure clean air. Point of sale is not quick enough.” He said if the air quality is threatened, then the town should adopt a date-certain changeout, affecting all residents.
The revised air quality management plan will return for council consideration and final approval at the July 15 meeting, although the ordinances required to implement it will take a while longer, Town Planner Duane Hall said.
Hall said in his report to council that the planning commission proposed the point of sale replacement because commissioners believed the town’s financial incentives program would not reduce the numbers of uncertified woodstoves quickly enough.
“The commission expressed concerns on the uncertainties of the town’s compliance with the new fine particulate matter federal standards and the effectiveness of a financial assistance/incentive program to remove non-certified devices in a timely manner,” Hall stated in his report. “The commission believes it is necessary to reduce wood combustion emissions above and beyond and at a faster rate than could occur by financial assistance and incentives.”
Hall said the proposed mandatory changeout program is a common tool used by cities and counties with particulate matter pollution problems to remove non-certified woodstoves.
“The real estate community is often opposed to this type of ordinance because the requirement is implemented at the time of sale,” Hall wrote. He said some common features of mandatory changeout ordinances include:
– All non-certified woodstoves and fireplace inserts must be removed prior to sale of the home.
– The buyer/seller must submit paperwork to the municipal government stating that they comply with the ordinance.
– Inspections are done by the municipal government or an approved private inspector to verify compliance with the ordinance.
– Special enforcement provisions are provided with increased penalties.
However, Hall said the town staff believes it is important to reduce the role and liability of the real estate community in the changeout process, and also to reduce the financial impact of the program on buyers and sellers. Consequently, the proposal before council states:
– The seller and buyer will be solely responsible for complying with the ordinance.
– A real estate agent will not be responsible for inspecting the home to verify compliance with the ordinance and will not be responsible for enforcing the ordinance. The real estate agent’s responsibility will be limited to disclosing the requirements of the ordinance to the seller and the buyer.
– The required inspections will be conducted by Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District and/or “privatized” whereby woodstove retailers, installers and and other qualified people will licensed by the town to conduct the inspections.
– The property owner will be able to install a town-certified device without paying a mitigation fee.
– The property owner will be eligible to participate in any financial assistance/incentive program for which they qualify.
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