The Winthrop Town Council will reconsider and possibly revise proposed language for an ordinance that would enable the town to ban outdoor burning when it would be in the public interest.
The topic first came up at a council meeting in September, related to concerns about severe fire conditions and air quality conditions, and whether the town could limit burning within its limits.
The ordinance introduced at last week’s meeting would empower the town to declare a burn ban “prohibiting all outdoor burning in town due to a severe weather event, severe drought or other hazardous conditions.”
Anna Kominak, co-owner of Pine Near RV Park, and Stu Rasmussen, co-owner of Winthrop KOA, raised concerns about how the ordinance might affect their facilities, which allow outdoor fires under controlled conditions.
Rasmussen said he was concerned that the “sweeping powers” the ordinance would give the town raises questions about who would determine an emergency and enforce the ordinance. He noted that the proposed ordinance did not reference air quality.
Kominak said her campground has never had a fire issue and has a fire suppression plan in place. “We self-regulate,” she said. “If it’s too windy, or if there are fires in the vicinity, we ask people not to have [camp] fires.” She said the ordinance would “adversely and disproportionately” affect visitors for whom having a campfire is part of their Winthrop experience.
Councilmember Bill McAdow said he agreed that the ordinance could be more specific, particularly as to how burn ban conditions are determined and enforced. He said the town should have the authority to impose a ban when appropriate. McAdow said several residents have approached him with concerns about burning within town limits.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said that “smoke is what affects the quality of life of the [town] residents.”
McAdow, a volunteer firefighter with Okanogan County Fire District 6, said he would consult with District 6 Chief Cody Acord about possible alternative language to bring back to the council.
Councilmember Ben Nelson said the town should keep any ordinance “somewhat vague” so as not to create too many exemptions that might be “punishing residents while accommodating visitors.”
In other business, the council approved a preliminary long plat requested by Mike Kutz, who proposes to create nine lots on a 2.06-acre site on Horizon Flats Road. The proposed plat is in an industrially zoned area.
The Winthrop Planning Commission recommended preliminary approval with final approval dependent on Kutz meeting a list of conditions. Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said the application meets the requirements for a preliminary approval, but noted that “the lot sizes don’t seem to be intended or appropriate for industrial use… I emphasized [to Kutz] that they must be primarily industrial.”
The council also heard from Winthrop Rink General Manager Steve Bondi, who said the rink is expected to open on Nov. 7, on a limited basis with strict coronavirus prevention protocols in place.