Leaf Burning Ban Fuels Debate

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The leaf burning debate has sparked once again. The Winnebago County Board considers overturning its leaf burning ban in rural areas. A public meeting is going on Wednesday night to address the controversial topic.

Winnebago County's leaf burning ban has meant more time outdoors for Harry Russell, who suffers from a smoke allergy.

"Oh yes, I can sit here in the swing and rock and enjoy the fresh air, the clean air," says Russell.

Chancy Williamson has also spent more time outside since the ban took affect, but for a different reason: getting rid of his yard waste is no longer as simple or as cheap as lighting a match.

"I have to hire somebody to come in and haul my leaves off. There are too many to use for mulching or compost, and that cost me $200," says Williamson.

County Board member Jim Webster says residents in rural Winnebago County, meaning north of 173 and west of Meridian Road, should be able to burn their piles of yard waste. His proposal would allow about 5,000 residents to burn 30 days in the spring and 30 days in the fall.

"These people had a right to burn for many years. We, and by that I mean the County Board, took that right away from them, and that was wrong," says Webster.

Critics like Russell are already firing back. Health concerns are their main challenge.

"People with asthma problems, respiratory, allergies would be hurt, young or old," says Russell.

Legality issues are also a concern as far as only allowing a certain number of people to burn.

"If the county has a right to change zoning class, those are by ordinance, and this is no different," says Webster.

Webster's proposal goes before the full Board on May 12.