Fireplace and woodstove laws get look | SteamboatToday.com
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Fireplace and woodstove laws get look

Christine Metz

A 1987 ordinance that required residents to upgrade their fireplaces and woodstoves to improve air quality in the Yampa Valley is going to be re-examined.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, council members discussed with Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf the need to re-examine the ordinance that focused on cleaning the emissions from solid fuel burning devices, such as fireplaces and woodstoves.

For the past few months, Councilwoman Kathy Connell has broached the topic of updating the ordinance and said that the current system was unfair. She noted that although the majority of multifamily units took the added expense of converting their woodstoves and fireplaces to be in compliance with the ordinance, some have yet to do so. She also thinks the ordinance is unduly hard on condo owners, who also are being pressured to update the outside of their buildings.

“When this thing came about in 1987, it was an enormous hardship to multifamily dwellings that had to retrofit,” Connell said.

“If the city is going to adopt a law that is going to be onerous, it needs to be fair and equitable. It needs to be enforced,” she said.

Zopf said Tuesday night that about 100 multifamily units were out of compliance with the ordinance. Because of the natural gas lines that went into the condos after the woodstoves and fireplaces went out of commission, Zopf said it is easy to tell who is in compliance and who is not.

“It is something we will look at to see if we need to do some enforcement,” he said.

Zopf volunteered to reorganize an air quality committee to look into the ordinance. A committee of a variety of community members including real estate agents, developers, environmentalists and City Council members was formed in the mid-1980s to pass along recommendations for improving the air quality.

In the 1980s, the city’s air quality was poor, with a haze falling over the base of the ski area on winter days. At that time, the second leading cause of air pollution in the valley was the particles from fireplaces and wood stoves.

The city also had a high number of fires caused by fireplaces and woodstoves.

Since the ordinance was enacted, the air quality has improved, and one of the main reasons is the conversion of woodstoves and fireplaces.

“This is the No. 1 environmental achievement that has occurred in the Yampa Valley,” Zopf said.

Zopf said he has received calls from across the country about the program that the city and county instituted to reduce air pollutions.

With the passage of the 1987 ordinance, all nonconforming solid fuel burning devices, except for those in single-family and duplex homes, had to be replaced with a nationally approved solid fuel burning device, or an air pollution control device had to be put in place.

The ordinance mostly affected multifamily complexes, which were required to retrofit all of their units to meet the new regulations.

The ordinance also required all new construction to have only nationally approved solid fuel burning devices and only one devise per building. A building was defined as a single-family home, one side of a duplex building or all dwelling units in a multifamily structure.

If the builders wanted more than one per building then they would have to purchase the right to permanently eliminate two existing fireplaces registered in the city.

The fireplace rights came from single-family homes or duplexes that had fireplaces or woodstoves and converted them to an approved solid fuel burning device, such as a gas log fireplace, or physically removed the structure.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com


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