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Heated discussions over wood-burning fire pits

Weehawken committee to study the issue

Fire pits have provided outdoor warmth for Weehawken residents during COVID-19.

Following public outcry, Weehawken has tabled an ordinance that would have banned wood burning in outdoor fire pits. Instead, the township will form a committee consisting of one council member and residents to discuss the issue.

The Weehawken Township Council introduced an ordinance banning the practice at the virtual council meeting on Oct. 29.

Mayor Richard Turner said that the ordinance stemmed from individuals with lung conditions or asthma complaining about the smoke from wood burning in fire pits. Embers have also raised concerns about spreading fire.

The ordinance would have banned only wood burning in outdoor fire pits, not gas or propane.

Committee formed

The decision to table the ordinance followed outrage by residents at the Nov. 5 council meeting who argued that an outright ban punishes residents who burn wood responsibly.

Instead of holding a public hearing on the matter at the Nov. 23 meeting, the council will hold further discussions following the formation of the committee.

The committee will make recommendations to the council on the ordinance. Turner said the recommendations will be on the website and residents will have input.

The committee will be chaired by Councilman David Curtis, a retired Fire Chief from North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, and will consist of approximately five locals.

Turner appointed one outspoken resident, Roger Desmond, to the committee at the Nov. 5 meeting. Desmond is passionately opposed to the ordinance, questioning what other activities that create smoke could be banned.

Hot controversy

Desmond championed the camaraderie among neighbors through social-distanced get-togethers around outdoor fire pits.

As it gets colder, fireside meetups may be the only safe way for residents to gather.

Resident Lori Young said that everyone should not be punished over a few irresponsible folks and suggested a permitting process to weed out violators.

Pablo Galloy, a Weehawken resident for over 20 years, was concerned that the ordinance would ban him from cooking on his outdoor, wood-burning culinary oven.

“Losing my oven would be like losing a member of my family,” Galloy said.

Galloy said he also would miss connecting with neighbors around the fire.

Resident Scott Dennis said that the fireside get-togethers have been a great way for his children to interact with their friends safely.

Sharon Palm said she was concerned that without fire pits, residents would return to gathering inside and spread the virus.

Resident Sandra McKenzie said that she supports both sides of the argument. Living behind a senior home, she understands some residents may have issues with the smoke, but she supported the safe activity.

The next council meeting is on Nov. 23. Visit weehawken-nj.us.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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