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Council hearing is anything but routine

Meeting has heavy debate on whether to use the word 'routine' or not in amendment to fuel modification ordinance.

April 05, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

The City Council spent the better part of an hour Tuesday on the consequences of using the word "routine" in a proposed ordinance amendment — and then continued the hearing for further clarification.

Council members appeared to be evenly split on whether "routine" gave new power to the Fire Department to clear hazardous brush, despite assurances that it did not from the fire chief, city attorney, a majority of the members of the subcommittee who crafted the amendment and the city manager, who warned that deleting the word could thwart city safety practices.

"This simply allows the city to continue to do what it has done," said Matt Lawson, a member of the Vegetation Management Subcommittee.

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The subcommittee of the Disaster Preparedness Committee, or DPC, was appointed to review the proposed ordinance dealing with the protection and restoration of native vegetation from the standpoint of public safety — primarily fuel modification.

"We identified the section on the removal of native vegetation as the DPC's area of legitimate interest," Lawson said. "And we only added eight words (shown in bold) to the section."

"Such approval would not be required for city-approved annual weed abatement or routine fire hazard abatement — vegetation management for fire protection as authorized by the state or local regulations, as needed based on seasonal growing conditions in accordance with the fire chief," according to the proposed wording in the ordinance.

"Adding routine does not improve the proposed ordinance," said Richard Picheny, a member of the subcommittee.

Picheny was the only one of the four subcommittee members who opposed the "r" word. He said he had voted for the proposed language only to get the ordinance before the council. He suggested the entire sentence exempting the Fire Department's "routine" fire hazard abatement be eliminated from the ordinance.

However, City Manager John Pietig said omitting routine and the definition of routine from the ordinance may have unintended consequences.

"You may inadvertently create a conflict in which the existing fuel breaks and fuel modification program doesn't comply with the ordinance," Pietig said. "So it's not that it is going to give the city new powers; it's that in the absence of the words, you have restricted the city's existing ability to conduct the fuel break and the existing fuel modification."

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