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Woodstove ordinance approved

JOHN A. BAYLESS, Sierra Sun

Truckee Town Council approved a point-of-sale woodstove replacement policy last week, combined with a seven-year deadline for replacing all obsolete woodstoves in Truckee.

The vote passed 3-2, with councilmembers Maia Schneider and Don McCormack supporting it, as well as Mayor Josh Susman. Councilmembers Bob Drake and Ron Florian were opposed.

Town Planner Duane Hall said the woodstove replacement policy will not take effect until financial assistance programs are in place to aid residents, or until May 1, 2000 – whichever comes first.

“We’re probably at least six months away before this type of program could come into effect,” Hall said. “A phased approach based on natural gas availability will also be considered by council before implementing the time portion of the ordinance to see if there is another way that we could require the removal of these non-certified woodstoves and tie it in with the natural gas availability in order to make it easier for homeowners.

Many Realtors in the area are opposed to the point-of-sale provision, claiming it discriminates against home sellers and home buyers, and will not get the job done as quickly as a simple “date-certain” changeout that affects all obsolete woodstoves in town limits.

John Falk, public affairs officer for the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, said he appreciated council including Realtors in the committee which will decide how the policy will be implemented.

“I suspect that’s where we can work out the more troubling details,” Falk said. “Be aware that we are on the same page as you when it comes to air quality. We want to see the air as clean and livable as possible, and so anything we can do to ensure the plan is implemented efficiently and effectively, we will do. Our goal is to do everything we can to make it the best possible program that it can be. We want to do what’s right for the town.”

Falk urged council to have private businessmen do the inspections to ensure compliance with the town’s woodstove policy, rather than the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, because the district has been in the forefront of calling for point-of-sale replacement for years.

“At least, if this creates a few jobs, some good will come of this onerous ordinance,” Falk said.

McCormack said council did all they could to accommodate the needs of Realtors, including the incorporation of a date-certain changeout period, exemptions for homes built after 1994 and a phased policy based on natural gas availability.

“This is not a burden on top of an already-complicated system,” McCormack said. “There have been statements that Realtors represent the buyers and sellers and that always kind of catches with me. The Realtors provide a very valuable and complicated service, for which they receive compensation because they are in business. We are the representatives of he property owners. We are the elected officials. We have their financial interests at heart as well as other aspects.”

McCormack said woodstove replacement is a health issue, with more significance than other council topics such as animal control, and Donner Lake watercraft.

“It is a health issue and we have done absolutely the only thing that we could do,” he said. “I commend council for that.”

Schneider said the community was very involved in the planning process.

“One thing that Truckee should be proud of is the amount of public dialogue on this issue with the citizens’ committee and the planning commission,” Schneider said. “I am glad to see there will be additional input.”

Drake took exception to the statements about public input, saying that the point-of-sale policy did not have adequate public discussion.

“There was a three to four year process where this plan evolved-that’s true,” Drake said. “On June 9, an amendment was added by the planning commission that had never been laid out before, which was point of sale. It was introduced when hardly anyone was there. Then it came to us, and that’s why I am saying it lacked adequate public notice.”Homeowners with older woodstoves will incur significant costs – some when they sell their homes and others at the end of the seven-year deadline.

The plan notes that homeowners will be responsible for the costs of removing the non-certified woodstove or fireplace insert from the home and disposing of it at an approved site. Removal may cost several hundred dollars, although town assistance may cover some of the cost. If a homeowner wishes to replace the obsolete woodstove with an EPA Phase II stove, pellet stove, or gas service stove, it could cost from $1,500 to purchase and install a new stove.

Ordinances to support the new policy will not be considered until August.

The Air Quality Management Plan lists advantages and disadvantages of the woodstove replacement policy.

Advantages

– The control strategy will directly reduce particulate emissions from the largest source of emissions in the Truckee air basin.

– The control strategy will quicken the removal of non-certified devices in the Town of Truckee. Fine particulate matter emissions will be substantially reduced and this will allow the town to get a head start in reducing annual and 24-hour particulate matter concentrations to comply with the new National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

– The control strategy will create both short-term and long-term reductions of emission levels. The removal of non-certified devices prior to the sale of a home will result in immediate reductions and these reductions will continue to increase until all non-certified devices are removed by the end of the seven-year period. After the seven-year deadline, the town will enjoy substantial long-term reductions in emissions from existing development.

– The non-certified devices will be removed or replaced prior to the sale of a house, and the costs for removal or replacement may be handled through the home sale transaction, which may be a more favorable time for the property owner to remove or replace the device.

Disadvantages

– The control strategy will be a regulatory measure, and will be an additional item for the seller to address as part of a home sale transaction.

– The town will have to undertake an extensive enforcement program at the end of the seven-year deadline, as up to 750 homes may still have a non-certified device and in violation of the ordinance.

– There will be substantial costs ($1,500+) to homeowners who rely on woodstoves as their primary heating source, as these homeowners must replace the non-certified device along with an EPA Phase II stove, or install and utilize another type of heating source.

The town council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Town Hall on Donner Pass Road.


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