Village says code doesn’t apply to Clarkson boiler

SARANAC LAKE – Clarkson University will only need a building permit to put a wood pellet boiler system inside a shipping container behind one of the two houses it rents in the village for its Adirondack Semester program.

Nevertheless, the village Board of Trustees has scheduled a public hearing on its plan to rescind a 2008 local law that regulates the use of outdoor wood boilers, saying it isn’t needed because the state has its own regulations.

Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, in a Dec. 5 letter to Clarkson Professor Philip Hopke, said the boiler systems proposed at 237 and 245 Lake Flower Ave. are not “outdoor wood boilers” as defined by Chapter 47 of the village code.

“The boiler systems proposed are not specified for outdoor installation,” Evans wrote. “Even though the boiler system for 237 Lake Flower Ave. is proposed to be housed in a shipping container and will be technically located outdoors, it was not originally designed for outdoor use. A comparative review of the village’s ‘OWB Law’ and the performance specifications of the system proposed clearly indicates that the intent of the law is not to regulate the type of boiler proposed by the applicant.”

Evans added that his determination doesn’t apply to state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations on outdoor wood boilers. Clarkson may need to obtain a determination from DEC before moving forward with the project, he wrote.

The decision by Evans came just two days after Hopke outlined the project at a special village board meeting. Earlier this year, he said the university received $275,000 in New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant funding to pilot a residential wood pellet boiler project.

Clarkson wants to put the two boiler systems in the two houses it rents from Cherrie Sayles, but because access to the basement at 237 Lake Flower Ave. is difficult, it proposed putting that building’s system in a shipping container in the backyard. That raised questions about whether the system would be an outdoor wood boiler subject to the village’s OWB law, which limits residential outdoor boilers to “owner-occupied single-family dwellings.”

Evans’ determination, which was included in the village board’s agenda Monday night, says the project is not subject to that section of the village code. He also wrote that both pellet boiler systems are considered an integral part of the principal structures and, much like propane storage, will have to be set back a minimum of 10 feet from the nearest property line. The setback will apply to the wood pellet storage silo at 245 Lake Flower Ave. and the shipping container proposed at 237 Lake Flower Ave, Evans wrote.

“The purpose of this minimum setback is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community but will also have the secondary benefit of protecting the aesthetics and property values of adjacent properties,” his determination reads.

Evans also required the exhaust vent for the shipping container boiler to be directed away from all structures and said Clarkson will have to screen the container from neighboring properties. He said the two systems will require a building permit and will have to comply with the state building code.

Before Evans issued his determination, the village board had discussed the possibility of rescinding its OWB law. Even though Evans’ decision will allow Clarkson to move forward with the project, the board agreed Monday night to consider scrapping the 2008 law.

The resolution the board approved says the village law “is duplicative of DEC regulations” and “DEC has greater financial and manpower resources than the village to regulate and enforce” the installation and operation of outdoor wood boilers. The public hearing on rescinding the 2008 law will be held at the board’s next meeting, Jan. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.