Fire and water in Honesdale
Two issues predominated at the June 10 Honesdale Borough Council meeting: swimming pools and fire safety. The former promised welcome relief from summer heat; the latter promised heated debate. In president F.J. Monaghan’s absence, vice president James Brennan chaired the meeting. All other councilpersons were present.
Swimming pools first became a topic of interest during the citizen input segment of the meeting, with a request for a variance of the borough ordinance requiring that residential swimming pools be located in backyards only. A resident of the hill district claimed that his backyard did not contain sufficient level ground to permit set-up of a small above-ground pool four feet in depth. The resident noted that the $750 variance fee was prohibitive for his family, and that he was therefore requesting waiver of the fee. In the discussion that followed, the council acknowledged that the fee was probably unrealistically large for installation of a temporary and/or seasonal residential structure. The resident indicated that he would drain and remove the pool in September.
The council questioned whether the variance was actually necessary, as the ordinance specifically designated its use for permanent structures only. However, the resident informed the council that he had been denied a pool installation permit because he lacked a variance, adding that other residents of the hill district had circumvented the backyard pool ordinance simply by failing to apply for a pool installation permit. He also informed the council that pool installation permits are currently required for all pools more than two feet in depth, whether temporary or permanent. Surprised by this information, the council agreed to re-examine residential pool installation ordinances with the Planning, Zoning, Building and Code Enforcement Board, to find a workable solution for this resident and others like him.
Swimming pools continued to generate discussion, as Parks and Recreation chair Michael Slish reported that the borough pool will open on Monday, June 17, and that there will be a free swim day on Sunday, June 23. At the same time, he conscripted fellow council members to serve food (free of charge) to all in attendance at the free swim day, which prompted Brennan to observe that last year’s celebration proved the children in attendance to be well mannered and appreciative of the borough’s efforts on their behalf.
Immediately before council went into executive session, deputy fire chief Brian Dulay questioned the council about the disposition of the draft Knox Box ordinance. When informed by councilman Harry DeVrieze that it was in limbo because Main Street merchants’ reaction to the draft ordinance had been overwhelmingly negative, Dulay asserted that, by placing political expediency above the best interests of public safety, the council was failing its constituents. DeVrieze countered that, in democratic government, the will of the people is paramount.
A resolution to the stand-off seemed viable when Dulay informed the council that the wording of the draft ordinance had been vague and inadequate for the purposes of Honesdale fire safety. He proposed that fire officials work with the council and borough officials to revise the draft ordinance to more accurately reflect borough needs.