GM Issues Statement about Community Fire Pits

Ocean Pines Association General Manager John Bailey has issued a statement about the use of residential fire pits in the community.

In a memorandum released Friday, Nov. 16, Bailey said that while fire pits are not prohibited in Ocean Pines, Paragraph 8(s) of the community’s Declaration of Restrictions “clearly prohibits the outside burning of wood, leaves, trash and garbage. Therefore, fire pits can be approved, but not for the open burning of wood, etc.”

Because open burning includes 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),” according to Bailey, the only allowed fuel for a fire pit is gas. Gas fire pits can be permitted, with approval of the community’s Architectural Review Committee (ARC), under Paragraph 5(a) of the Declaration.

Bailey cautions that according to Paragraph 8(i) of the Declaration, every tank for storage of fuel installed outside any building must either be buried below the surface of the ground or screened to the satisfaction of the committee by fencing or shrubbery.

“Placing a refillable propane tank in conjunction for the use of a fire pit would not be considered ‘installed’ for the purpose of Paragraph 8(i) of the Declaration, which it should be understood as intended to address large propane, oil or natural gas tanks for the heating of the homes,” Bailey said.

To be safe, Bailey said, the Architectural Review Committee can grant a variance to this particular screening restriction in order to overcome practical difficulties and to prevent unnecessary hardships in the application of the restrictions, in accordance to Paragraph 9 of the Declaration.

The memorandum indicates that the Architectural Review Committee will need to decide whether to continue to allow the open burning fire pits that currently exist.

Bailey recommends that the committee should “seek to comply with the terms of the Declaration going forward with regard to new requests for fire pits or for fire pits that are installed without ARC approval. The ARC can grandfather in existing open burning fire pits if it is impractical to enforce this prohibition now or just address each violation as it becomes known.”

In the meantime, however, Bailey said that, practically speaking, all users of open burning fire pits in existence prior to Nov. 16, 2018, should be mindful that such open burning in Ocean Pines is indeed prohibited. Bailey acknowledges, however, that the Association has no formal, quick response to enforce the prohibition.

“The result of using one’s fire pit may be a visit from the fire department,” he said. “If it is determined by the fire department that using one’s open burning fire pit has created a health and/or safety hazard for neighboring properties, then the fire department may direct that the use of the open burning fire pit be immediately halted.”

He also noted that all fire pits should abide by any issued burn ban.

Bailey said that the Architectural Review Committee will continue to address the issue of fire pits in Ocean Pines. For now, the summary points are:

1) Fire pits can be permitted, but only gas fueled; no new “open burning” fire pits are allowed.
2) If one wants to have a gas fire pit added to one’s property, the owner must get the approval of the ARC prior to installation/construction.
3) Existing “open burning” fire pits may be grandfathered by the ARC and are subject to additional regulation.
4) Whenever using any fire pit, it should never be left unattended, and owners should always be mindful and courteous of one’s immediate neighbors, and the community at large, for health and safety reasons.

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