Getting permission to burn yard debris should not be a complicated process.
But the Town of Hilton Head Island has been short-sighted on the issue, turning it into a cumbersome system that is frustrating residents who are just trying to keep their yards tidy.
The problem started in November when Town Council decided to ban the practice of burning leaves, limbs and other yard trash altogether because it produced offensive smoke. That left some residents in north- and mid-island neighborhoods wondering how to dispose of their yard trash. Town Council also failed to determine if there was an affordable way to provide pickup service for these residents before enacting the ban.
It wasn't long before residents complained, and council relented. The ban was canceled in March -- but not before council made another short-sighted decision, restricting the days on which residents could conduct burns to just two consecutive days each month.
The limitations are preventing rule-following residents from getting a chance to clean up their yards. Windy weather in June forced the fire department to cancel residents' burns. It was rescheduled for a Monday, a day that at least one resident had to work. So he couldn't burn his trash.
And this month, wet weather made it impossible for several residents to conduct their burns. The town has denied requests for a makeup day since it didn't actually rain from sun-up to sundown during the two days burns were permitted.
Town leaders should have seen these problems coming. Of course, rain on previous days makes yard debris too damp to burn. And of course makeup days should be held on Saturdays or Sundays, not during the week when most residents are scheduled to work.
Our suggestion: Schedule more makeup days, including ones on weekends, or increase the number of days each month residents can burn. Or better yet, do away with the restrictions altogether. With burns already being permitted each month, it's a rule for the sake of having a rule.
Town leaders say the number of burns has decreased in recent months. But from the start, there were never that many. Fire & Rescue data show that fewer than 150 residents request permits to burn yard debris in a typical year. Certainly, town leaders have more pressing matters to tackle than enforcing tedious burn rules.