Permanent rules on burning landscape waste to take effect June 1
Lake County officials on Tuesday took what supporters said was a step to protect public heath by approving permanent rules regarding the open burning of landscape waste.
The 13-7 vote, mainly along party lines, creates permanent regulations for opening burning, with conditions, as of June 1. The measure will replace a temporary ban enacted two years ago due to potential respiratory impacts from the coronavirus.
The measure approved Tuesday was described as a compromise that will allow woody materials to be burned in small fires all year and in larger ones from Nov. 1 to March 31.
Burning leaves or grass generally will not be allowed, but there are exceptions for prescribed burns by local governments, homeowner associations and some others.
County board member John Wasik of Grayslake, a member of the board's energy and environment committee, said the measure will help children and those with respiratory issues.
"We're trying to reduce suffering and save lives," he said.
The committee first discussed open burning three years ago. Over the past two years, county planners have explored options for permanent landscape waste burning restrictions. Along the way, a website has been introduced, hours of discussion logged, and 2,115 survey responses and 80 comments received.
Just over a third of Lake County's land area is unincorporated.
Determining what's best for all parties has been a sticky proposition involving property rights and the practical matter of removing large amounts of debris from properties with lots of trees.
"I knew this was going to be a big issue for my district and the northwest part of Lake County," said county board member Linda Pedersen, who represents District 1 in the Antioch area. It encompasses the most unincorporated area of the 21 board districts.
Those who voted against the new open burning regulations and related measures involving waste-hauling contracts said public opinion was being ignored.
"Why even ask for public comment if we're not going to listen?" said Pedersen. She said 56% of her constituents wanted no ban, 32% wanted a compromise and 12% favored a ban.
In tandem with the burning restriction, the county board authorized waste-hauling agreements with Lakeshore Recycling Services LLC for the southern part of the county and with Groot Recycling & Waste Services Inc. for the northern half.
"It will be less expensive for many if not all," said county Board Chair Sandy Hart.
The contracts will include landscape waste collection either by annual subscription or at a cost of $3 per customer-supplied bag. The new service won't apply in six townships or homeowners associations that already contract separately.
Some contended the new rules didn't represent a compromise. but the majority disagreed, citing the extensive work went into creating them.
"We didn't just take something away; we offered something to replace it," said board Member Carissa Casbon, who represents portions of Gurnee and Third Lake.
"I think we did this the right way. We did it methodically."