Eatery’s new pizza oven has some tenants fuming

June 30, 2015   ·   0 Comments

The new pizza oven at the Bluebird Cafe and Grill may be pleasing pizza lovers but its smoke has some tenants fuming to the point where they’ve asked Orangeville council for help.

Tony and Susan Reynolds, who live in the apartment above 96 Broadway, approached council regarding the wood smoke, which they say is disrupting their lifestyle.

“This apartment has been our home for more than seven years, and downtown living is ideal for us,” said Mr. Reynolds when he introduced himself to Council at its June session.

“We’ve had nothing to concern us until now, and this is a major concern because our life has been severely altered by it. The smoke from the pizza oven threatens the health and safety of our home. What was once a sanctuary is no longer.”

The Reynolds say the large deck at the rear of their apartment had become a sanctuary, where they could enjoy the outdoors, host guests, and more, but black smoke coming from the restaurant’s wood oven has rendered that space unuseable.

“We’re here today to ask the town to protect our right to breathe clean air,” said Mr. Reynolds. “Every time [the stove] is lit up, it [produces] black smoke. The smell is almost always there and the hazard is continuous. No amount of smoke is acceptable, and this is even worse.”

He said that on May 27th, the smoke was so bad that his wife was ready to spend the night at the Best Western to escape its effects.

“The chimney is close to our back deck,” he said. “At first, [the chimney] was just at eye level, but now it has been raised further. The chimney is only about 30-40 feet from our deck.”

They also have a video of the smoke from the chimney, which they procured after raising the issue with the Bluebird’s owners.

Mr. Reynolds said the only response was that the stove and chimney were built to code, something confirmed during the meeting by the Town’s bylaw officer.

“You know when you’re sitting in front of a campfire and smoke blows in your face? That’s what it’s like,” Mr. Reynolds said, “except we don’t have the option to move away from it. We need a law to protect our right to breathe clean air.”

Council also received a letter backing the Reynolds’ requests for action from Chris and Betty Drozdowski, the building’s landlords.

“We think that the smoke coming out of the chimney from the Bluebird has a negative impact on our building and on the health of our tenants,” they wrote in their letter. “We would have a hard time to rent this space when the time comes because of it. This devalues our property, and the deck that is built in the back is not going to be used as much, as it is unbearable sometimes.”

They added that they also believe their property taxes on the buildings they own should be lowered because of the impact of the smoke.

“Since this is causing so much smoke going to our property, we would like to ask for this smoke to stop,” they wrote. “Most importantly, because it is a health hazard to our tenants.”

Mayor Jeremy Williams, who has been vocal online in the past about his dislike of wood burning in the Orangeville community, spoke in favour of finding a solution that would prevent smoke from being an issue.

“It would be really easy for us to say as Council that this has nothing to do with us because no laws have been broken, but I think we need to do something,” he said. “I’ve done research on this, and there is no safe exposure amount to wood smoke. We felt it was important to do something about second-hand smoking, and we did something.”

Councillor Nick Garisto was quick to bring up his concerns regarding the possibility of a grandfathering clause, which would allow permits obtained under previous bylaws to remain in existence, despite the change of a bylaw.

“That could be a concern, as we could pass a new bylaw, but if the owner of the restaurant went through the process, the grandfather clause would protect them from the new bylaw,” said Councillor Garisto.

Although he did not have the information on-hand, Vern Douglas, Director of Building and Bylaw Enforcement, said that while they would have to obtain legal counsel on the issue, there was a good possibility that it would have to be grandfathered in.

Despite the possibility of the grandfather clause, the concerns prompted debate on whether wood-burning should be allowed at all in the town. Council passed a motion to have staff investigate the possibility of such a ban, as well as the effects it would have. The first report would look at just banning backyard wood fires, while the second would look into banning all burning – including indoor woodstoves and fireplaces – that involved wood.

Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock asked Council to consider looking into different answers before pursuing that path.

“Once we start infringing on people’s property rights, we’re going down the wrong path,” he said. “We should speak to the business about any positive alternatives, but not go down this path first.”

Many residents expressed their outrage at this consideration on Facebook, a number commenting that it seems to be an over-reaction, particularly if a new bylaw wouldn’t prevent the problem that brought the issue  to council in the first place.

During online conversations, Mayor Williams confirmed that should a new bylaw be put in place, anyone who has obtained a burn permit for 2015 would still be allowed to burn until it expires.

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