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Potsdam board considers outdoor furnace law

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POTSDAM — A law under consideration by the Town Council would bring increasingly popular outdoor furnaces in line with state regulations.

Outdoor furnaces have not been regulated by the town, but with their popularity on the rise and changing environmental restrictions enacted by the state, the town decided more than a year ago to begin crafting a law.

The final product was presented to the board at a meeting Tuesday, with members voting unanimously to hold a public hearing on the law Feb. 11.

If passed, the law will require all new outdoor furnaces to comply with state regulations. In addition, all furnace owners will have to acquire a permit from the town code enforcement office.

Those who already own wood-burning furnaces that do not conform to state regulations would not be forced to get rid of them, although they still will have to acquire a permit from the town within a year after the law passes.

The law also gives the town board the power to revoke any permit if smoke or emissions from the furnace “interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of life, safety or property,” cause damage to vegetation or property, or smell unreasonably strong.

Breaking the law could lead to a $250 fine or imprisonment for a week, with subsequent offenses leading to a fine of up to $1,000 or a month in jail.

There is no estimate of how many Potsdam residents use outdoor furnaces, which usually burn wood to heat a home, but town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said the numbers are on the rise.

“There’s more than there used to be,” she said.

The energy cost savings of wood-burning furnaces appeal to a growing number of town residents, including James A. Grant, the town board’s newest member. Tuesday’s meeting was Mr. Grant’s first in his official capacity.

Town Attorney Francis P. Cappello said the law was created to bring the town in line with state regulations, and should not be a burden to most owners of outdoor furnaces.

“We’re not going to turn anybody’s furnace off if that’s how they heat their home,” he said.

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