There is a proposed burn ordinance in Ashville, Alabama that will be discussed this coming Monday night, November 3rd, at 6:00pm. In a nutshell, it criminalizes starting a fire on your own private property without the government’s permission.
First off, for those of you outside the city limits of Ashville…this may or may not apply to you…yet. But rest assured, it will in the future. In addition to the corporate limits of Ashville, it also extends throughout the police jurisdiction, which per state law is within 1.5 miles of cities less than 6,000 people (and bumps up to 3 miles for cities of 6,000 people or more). Thus, take the farthest point of Ashville, add 1.5 miles, and you’re in. If Ashville continues to annex more property, you may eventually get sucked in.
The law is whittling away at freedom in Ashville. It would require you to get permission to simply have a backyard bonfire, burn pile, or the like. Currently, for residential properties, they do not have a fee associated with it, but for construction, demolition, or clearing of land, they will charge you $25/day, and only give you 7 days. You would not be able to burn, even on your own property after 6:00pm (say goodbye to bonfires and smores). Any neighbor can turn you in, and the penalty for a violation is around $400 for the first offense (don’t be fooled…court costs are typically around $250, plus the $150 fine). Additionally, each and every time you want to burn a pile of leaves, you have to go to the fire department and get a written permit. For construction, demolition, and clearing, it is even more onerous, and you have to have the fire department inspect it, plus you have to go to the city hall to pay your tax.
I would encourage families not to attempt to lessen the penalties, but to simply oppose the measure altogether. There are already legal remedies in place to protect against nuisance and careless burning, and this law doesn’t provide any more protection for that. It simply criminalizes the mere act of failing to ask for permission. To give you an idea of what you can be fined $400 for:
– Failing to ask for permission to burn
– Burning at 7:00pm on a Saturday afternoon in broad daylight in the summer (even if you plan on putting the fire out before you go to bed)
– Having your 17 year old (or younger) do the burning
– Not having a hose next the fire, even if it is in a fire pit
– Burning a paper plate (yes, that could be considered “trash”)
– Even if you have a hose next to your little bonfire, if any neighbor is within 200 feet
– Your pile of leaves was 37 inches high when you lit it
– You burn a limb that is 4 inches in diameter (unless you pay $25/day)
– Any neighbor doesn’t like it (and thus calls it a nuisance)
The message to the city council needs to be to at a minimum, reform this proposed ordinance to deal with the actual problem, not the potential problem. Biblically, if you start a fire, you should make restitution (see Exodus 22:5-6). If you do it intentionally (verse 5), the restitution is higher (from the best of the field/vineyard), compared to if it is accidental/negligent (verse 6). The civil magistrate should punish the evil doer, not tax/fine/punish the potential evil doer.
Please get the word out to show up this Monday, November 3rd, at 6:00pm at the Ashville City Hall, and make your voice heard. The City Hall is at 262 8th Street in Ashville. Try to be there 15 minutes early. I hope to see you there, and yes, please share this with others, put it on Facebook, Tweet it, Pin It, and get the word out! Bring a friend, bring your entire family, and bring your friend’s family, too!As a reminder...the information here is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. For assistance with your specific legal question, you need to contact us.