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It's Getting Hot in Here!

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There have been a couple of stories in the Ipswich Chronicle, read Hot Debate on Ipswich Stove Regs, over the last few months devoted to one resident's attempt to seek approval for an outdoor hydronic heater.  For those of you unaware, outdoor hydronic heaters (OHHs) are wood burning stoves that heat an entire home year round, including supplying the hot water to the home. They are installed outside of the residence on a pad.  The wood fire heats water that surrounds the unit and the heated water is then circulated into the home to come into contact with the pipes that heat the home. The stoves operate year round and obviously require the homeowner to have access to a steady supply of wood. While the technology has existed for years, they are not common in eastern Massachusetts. They are typically found in more forested areas of the state.

For the Ipswich resident attempting to get his approval, the battle has been ongoing for nearly a year.  After several months before the Zoning Board of Appeals (the regulatory authority), the Board granted approval in November, 2011.  However, neighbors objecting to the stove have sought assistance from the Board of Health, asking the Board to enact a local setback regulation stricter than the one promulgated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The matter is currently before the Board for consideration.

The point of interest for the Ipswich community at large should not be the fear that OHHs will overrun the town. They are expensive to install, require strict maintenance and a year round supply of wood. The few that have been installed in Ipswich are mostly in agricultural settings. There are several at Appleton Farms and an OHH heats the main retail building at Russell Orchards. The owners of these properties are following the ongoing discussions by the Board of Health with as much interest as the private homeowner who triggered the Board's review. The local farming properties have been allowed to continue to operate their OHHs while the private resident has not been permitted to operate his OHH since last April.

The real issue for the community is whether the Board of Health will enact a regulation that sets a different setback standard for the local farming properties than for private residences.  If the Board pursues such a course, it will likely be sued for enacting a discriminatory regulation. I imagine there will be a follow up in the Ipswich Chronicle as the Board is expected to decide shortly how to address this "hot topic."

What's your take on OHHs?

Richard M. Kallman Law Office ofRichard M. Kallman 4 South Main Street, Suite 11 Ipswich,MA01938 (978) 356-2934 X15 (978) 356-9663 Fax

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