Ocean Pines General Manager John Bailey presented the following information during the Dec. 1 Regular Board Meeting at the Ocean Pines Community Center:
Can one have a fire pit? Yes. Can one have an existing fire pit? Yes. Can one have a fire pit built on one’s property? Yes. Can one have a portable fire pit? Yes. So, what is all the fuss about? The governing document, the Declaration, Paragraph 8(s) states: “No outside burning of wood, leaves, trash, garbage or household refuse shall be permitted”. Therefore, fire pits can be approved, but not for the open burning of wood, etc. “Open burning” is defined as the ignition and subsequent burning of any combustible material (garbage, leaves, grass, twigs, litter, paper, vegetative matter involved with land clearing, or any sort of debris) in the open or in a receptacle other than a furnace, incinerator, or other equipment connected to a stack or chimney.
With all that said, the ARC, a committee of your fellow members, is looking to create language within the guidelines that 1) allows for existing fire pits and how they can be grandfathered, and what guidelines they should be governed by, if any; and 2) provides the process for new fire pits to be created; and 3) what rules need to be considered for construction, placement, and use of a fire pit.
Under Paragraph 5(A) of the Declaration, permanent structures on lots are required to have a permit from the Association. If the fire pit is portable, then it does not. However, there are some guidelines that all fire pits need to follow, and the ARC is in the process of spelling those out. Some examples that may be forthcoming are: the fire pit needs to have a screen or ember arrestor; don’t burn anything that will create fly-ash. In any capacity of use, a fire pit cannot create a public nuisance – the burning can not impact one’s neighbor negatively.
However, the bottom line to all this is we can’t legislate being neighborly. If you have a fire pit, use it properly and be aware of your neighbor’s presence and possible concerns. Same is true if you don’t have a fire pit, but your neighbor does. We all have a right to the quiet enjoyment of our property. However, that obviously doesn’t mean we each get to have it all, with disregard for our neighbor’s same right. If you have a fire pit, and your neighbor’s kids are already outside playing and the wind is blowing toward their property, maybe it’s not the best time to start a fire. If you don’t have a fire pit, and your neighbor has started a fire for their grandchildren to make smores, then it’s okay for them to do that, and perhaps, if that activity is going to bother you, it’s probably not the best time for you to be in your backyard. Either way, just be aware of your surroundings – protect yourselves, your property, your neighbor’s property, and protect the natural environment. By safely operating a fire pit (burning the right things to prevent fly ash, using a screen, and making sure the smoke isn’t creating a problem for your neighbor), everybody can enjoy one’s own property.