MOUNT AIRY — No doubt, it's a burning issue.
Garden burning, that is.
Town administrators had the best intentions when deciding it was time to get out of the business of issuing garden-burning permits, which residents need to burn moderate amounts of yard waste on their properties.
An October vote by the Town Council meant residents no longer could get a permit at Town Hall. Instead, the council said county regulations now would prevail, and permits could be obtained in Westminster and Frederick (parts of Mount Airy lie in both Carroll and Frederick).
The move sparked a small problem. Permits from both counties require considerable distances between the fire and any nearbystructure.
A Frederick permit requires 200 feet between the flames and a house or a garage. A permit from Carroll calls for 900 feet (three football fields).
The distance requirements are nettlesome because Mount Airy, being a small town, is composed of smallish residential properties. Most lots aren't big enough to accommodate a setback of several hundred feet.
"We pretty much eliminated all possibility of burning in Mount Airy," said Councilman Marcum N. Nance.
That was not the intention.
The idea was, in part, the continuing effort to streamline town government. Burning permits are an example ofa small service that sparks administrative headaches for Mount Airy.
Town administrators figured the burning permit program was a goodcandidate for abolishment, particularly because the nearby county governments already offer such services.
The council discussed the setback dilemma at its November meeting, where members considered rescinding the previous vote. But the council decided to leave well enough alone.
"If people think it's stupid, we'll know about it real soon," quipped Councilman David Pyatt at the Nov. 4 meeting.
That seems unlikely, considering the town last year issued 43 permits, whichwere free. Compare that to the 571 Frederick County has approved thus far in 1991.
The elimination of the permit program doesn't mean would-be garden burners are out in the cold. Residents can drop off yard waste for recycling at the town's composting operation at Prospect Park, near Main Street and Prospect Road.
The hours for drop-offare 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 7:30 a.m. until dark Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.