Board OKs appeal to Open Burning ordinance

Other business includes new planning commissioner, assessor’s plat.
Laketown Township Hall, 4338 Beeline Road.

The Laketown Township Board of Trustees on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, unanimously approved the first appeal to the township’s new Open Burning ordinance. The appeal could lead to a change in the rules that gives more authority to the fire chief to decide who can burn brush west of 66th Street.

Supervisor Linda Howell instructed the original burn ordinance committee to draft changes to the rules and report back to the township board.

The ordinance

The township looked at the rules around open burning for about six months and set up a committee to look at changes. Trustees Patrick Dietrich and Jim Delaney worked with Graafschap Fire Chief Doug DenBleyker with input from residents to come up with the new rules.

The ordinance, which went into effect in May, divides fires into recreational and open burning categories.

A recreational fire is a small outdoor fire used for cooking, warming or a social gathering. The rules permit recreational fires west of 66th Street with yearly approval from the fire department who will inspect containers used for fire.

Even with the approval, those who want to burn must still call each time for a burn permit.

Open burning is a fire from which the combustion emissions pass directly into the open air without first passing through a stack or chimney. Open burning fires can include brush, limbs, and stumps. Open burning requires a permit and is allowed in the township but not west of 66th Street unless approved through an appeal process with the township board.


Paul Denhartigh, 4604 66th St., has been open burning for the last 7 years on his property, but the new ordinance changed that. He asked to be allowed to continue to open burn.

“Our property happens to be immediately west of 66th street, however, it is not in the Lake Michigan Shore and Dune Area,’’ Denhartigh wrote in a letter to the board.

The concern over safety stems from a 2007 fire in the dunes that destroyed homes and property.

Denhartigh’s land has easy access with two paved roads and has fire hydrants nearby.

“We understand the desire for an easily definable line of demarcation, however, we feel that we have been inadvertently caught in the crosshairs, and have become ‘collateral damage’ because of an arbitrary line, which doesn’t take into consideration property characteristics and we believe is inconsistent with the intent/purpose of this ordinance,” he said.

Board members agreed and granted Denhartigh’s appeal.

Other business

In other business, the board unanimously:

  • Approved a resolution to proceed with the assessor’s plat for a portion of Macatawa Park for cottages along the south side of Griswold Avenue. The project will define property borders. There will be no cost to township taxpayers.
  • Approved the appointment of Jay Cravens to fill the remaining term of Richard Becker on the planning commission. The term expires Dec. 31, 2026.
  • Approved the Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission Community Recreation Plan that will help the parks commission apply for grants.
  • Approved a zoning map amendment Ordinance No. 210 to rezone two parcels on Blue Star Highway from C-1 Neighborhood Business District to Multi-Use District. The planning commission approved the change on May 1.