Burning Ordinance: The Price of Violating Big Brother’s New Rule

As many of you are aware, Bellevue Council will be voting to approve a new burning ordinance during a special meeting next Tuesday night (May 22).  In order to not be kept in the dark, as many on council would prefer us peasants be, I requested and received a copy of the proposed ordinance.  I spent the past couple of days reading and re-reading the proposed ordinance and have many concerns about it (each concern will be a separate post to come over the next few days).

My #1 concern about the newly proposed ordinance is the cost of violating its proposed terms.  The proposed ordinance states, “No person shall allow or maintain a fire which creates excessive smoke, odor, or malodorous emissions.”  And the punishment for a conviction of maintaining a fire that creates “excessive smoke, odor, or malodorous emissions?”  $1000 fine and/or 30 days in prison!!!!

Imagine with me you are hanging out in your backyard with some friends around small fire pit.  You’re enjoying a few drinks, chowing down on some great eats, having a grand old time, however, your neighbor, who has openly expressed that he doesn’t think too highly of you, decides he wants to put an end to your good time.  Lucky for him, he knows that Bellevue council has approved an ambiguous new ordinance regulating backyard fires, so he calls the police and accuses you of maintaining a fire that produces “excessive odor and smoke” and demands it be put out.  The police respond and can tell you’re all having a bit of fun.  Perhaps a couple people have had one too many drinks.  Nothing illegal is going on, you’re all private citizens enjoying a good time on private property, but your neighbor is annoyed by you so the police want to “keep the peace.”

What are the police likely to do in a situation like this?  Who are they to claim that what your neighbor smells is NOT excessive odor and smoke?  Who are they to define what is and is not excessive?  Before you know it, the police are demanding that you put the fire out and charge you with being in violation of this new vague ordinance.  Some time later you’re in court defending yourself  but without the benefit of any substantial evidence in your favor.  The judge convicts you as being in violation of the ordinance and just like that you’re out $1000 and possibly even spending the next 30 days in prison all because your neighbor is annoyed by you and you were having too much fun on your private property.

I understand the desire to protect the health and welfare of our community through regulating the smoke that might blow into our neighbors’ homes from our small open fires (I don’t think an ordinance is necessary, but I understand the heart behind it).  However, if there’s going to be anything like a $1000 fine or 30 days in prison as a result of violating a new ordinance, there better be definite clear guidelines on how violations of the said ordinance are to be determined.  One person’s interpretation of “excessive smoke or odor” is not the same as another persons and all it takes is one phone call for you or I to be in prison or out $1000!

End the tyranny Bellevue Council!  Don’t vote to approve the new burning ordinance at least until enough time has been given to consider the consequences of your actions!


One Response to “Burning Ordinance: The Price of Violating Big Brother’s New Rule”

  1. There is no way to have a standard measure that would allow for the enforcement of such nonsense. If the Council votes for this i suggest all homeowners opposed get together and pick a day to individually grill out and have fires without contacting the fire department and test their ability to regulate this B.S. in a fair and equitable way. This will surely prove their inability to regulate a subjective rule and allow us taxpaying citizens to lawyer up and turn the tables on them.

    Unless they have an expert on staff with a PHD in excessive smoke standards it will be impossible for them to enforce these rules and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a homeowner is violation.

    It saddens me to think that out of all the things my city council could be spending their time and energy on that this even makes its way into my life. How about they fine the slumlords in town for not keeping up on their yard work, i have allergies and their lack of regular maintenance is having an adverse effect on my health, as well as the value of my property.

    I have only been in Bellevue for a year and a half and can clearly see that we are in need of some new representation that puts the best interest of the taxpaying homeowners first, considering we are the ones with the most to lose at the hands of a reckless outdated council.


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