Although open burning of leaves or other yard waste is not allowed in most of northeast Johnson County, a report to the Merriam City Council Monday showed that open burning is permitted in much of the rest of Johnson County, including Shawnee, Lenexa, Olathe and Overland Park (which does not allow leaf burning.)
Merriam also still allows open burning, although it has been a repeated topic during public comments at city council meetings with residents coming down on both sides of the issue.
Merriam residents use the privilege quite often. The Overland Park Fire Department – which operates fire services in Merriam – said it issued 776 burning permits in Merriam for the year, but barely 30 in Overland Park. The 776 permits in Merriam were divided across 281 locations. Each of those had an inspection before the permit was issued.
Merriam Assistant City Administrator Chris Engel noted that the cities that ban open burning are largely those that are built out and do not have large open lots. Burning is not allowed in Leawood or any of the cities covered by Consolidated Fire District No. 2. Open burning does not include fires that are contained in an outdoor chimney.
Some of the cities that do allow burning have restrictions on how close it can be to an occupied structure. Permits are denied based on density in Merriam and Overland Park, according to the fire department.
“I just wanted to bring this to your attention,” Merriam Mayor Ken Sissom told the city council. “This is purely a situation that falls on the will of the council.” Sissom said that without a request from the council, he is “not inclined” to add it to an agenda.
The mayor said that the issue had been presented as a health and safety concern. He asked for the report, he said, so the city will know where it stands and what surrounding communities are doing.