Hilton Head Island residents will likely be allowed to burn yard debris again in April.
Town Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a scaled-back open burning ban that would give residents two days a month to burn.
Council voted to lift the ban following criticism from members of the native-islander community that the panel failed to provide a pickup system for residential debris. Tuesday’s vote was 6-to-1, with Coucilman Lee Edwards dissenting.
“In the long term, we should aspire to not have burning,” Mayor Drew Laughlin said. “But I don’t think it’s fair to pull the rug out from folks who need to burn.”
The ban — which took effect Nov. 10 — left many residents of north- and mid-island neighborhoods with no way to prevent a buildup of branches and leaves in their yards, they said.
Under the proposed changes, two days each month would be set aside for burning. Those days would be different each month, rotating among Friday-Saturday, Saturday-Sunday and Sunday-Monday.
Households would apply for a burning permit only once, but would call the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division each time they planned to burn.
Division chief Lavarn Lucas said he modeled the regulations after the International Fire Code, removing a restriction on the number of piles a resident can burn at once. The new ordinance would also relax rules on the size of fires that can be built more than 50 feet from a structure or stored combustible materials.
“I think this is a compromise all of us can live with,” said Dot Law, an opponent of the ban and president of the Marshland/Chaplin/Gardner Property Owners Association.
Supporters of the ban said they remained concerned such burning causes health and environmental problems and poses a risk of property damage and injuries.
“We as an island need to protect the air we breathe,” said resident Debbie Stringer. “Let’s find a green solution.”
Others worried about the heavy smoke that could come one weekend a month with the burning.
To remedy that, Edwards suggested allowing four days a month for burning so fewer piles smolder at once.
Councilman Marc Grant recommended restricting households to two debris piles.
Those suggestions will be considered later, Laughlin said. “If (what was approved Tuesday) proves to be problematic, we can revisit it,” he said.
A final vote will come at council’s March 18 meeting.
If passed, burning would resume in April.
Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.