Neighbors’ Relationship Goes Up In Smoke

Posted at 10:44 PM, Feb 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-25 07:45:06-05

TALLMADGE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (Feb. 24, 2014) –– A dispute between neighbors has one man defending his heating methods and another packing his bags.  It comes down to the rising smoke from a wood-burning stove and the direction it blows.

The two neighbors actually have some things in common: both suffer from asthma, both have done their research on wood stoves, and both are trying to stay warm through a long winter in West Michigan.

On the front lawn of Thomas Morgan’s home there are stumps like grave markers, evidence of the lengths he’ll go to beat back the cold.

“Most of what I burn is maple, cherry, sassafras,” said Morgan of the contents of his wood-burning stove. “A lot easier on your lungs.”

Those trees are cut down and burned so Morgan doesn’t have to make other sacrifices. “It’s saved me a good $100 or more the heating bill,” he said.

But when the winds blow that smoke to the west, that’s when his neighbor Thomas Dooley takes issue. “It’s thick enough where you would want to open the door for fresh air, and the problem is worse,” Dooley explains.

The two men decided separately to move to out Tallmadge Charter Township because they like the country feel, the privacy the rural township has to offer.  Unfortunately for them, the way the houses are situated feels more like a subdivision, and that helps drive a wedge between the two neighbors.

The smoke issue began to blur the one-time neighborly friendship about a year ago.

“I tried to confront him, and all he tried to do was confront me in a physical manner,” said Dooley.

Morgan responded, “He wasn’t happy with the smoke blowing in his direction. I told him we are out in the country, and that’s what we do out here.”

Dooley took home video of the smoke, then took his complaints to the township supervisor.  He cited a zoning ordinance that states the fumes and odors from the smoke are obnoxious and dangerous.  The township supervisor told FOX 17 Morgan is compliant in terms of the height and type of smokestack required for the residences in the township.

“There is nothing they will do about it,” said Dooley.

“If he has a complaint, I’m sorry,” responded Morgan. “It’s the middle of winter, and I’m not going to stop burning a wood stove.”

Dooley also takes issue with when the wood is being burned. “He chops it down and 20 minutes later, it’s in the fireplace,” he said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, freshly-cut wood creates more smoke and is harder on the lungs and the environment.  The agency recommends burning only dry, seasoned wood.

“I usually have good, seasoned wood by this time, and it’s not a problem,” said Morgan.  “But it’s getting a little more winter than we are used to.”

Without any action, Dooley said he will find a new home by spring.