Video of a county official discussing an alleged code violation — regarding excessive barbecue smoke — with a St. Petersburg, Florida, resident has gone viral amid claims that the county is being overzealous in cracking down on backyard barbecues.
The video (shown below) opens with Pinellas County Environmental Specialist Joe Graham reading part of the code to two men — one wearing an orange shirt and the other who is filming the encounter. Graham goes on to explain that the rule says smoke and smell from the barbecue is not permitted to leave a person’s property.
“I can smell it again right now, but I’m on your property,” Graham says at one point in the video. “You’re allowed to have it smell on your property, so that doesn’t count, but when I’m on the street, that’s when it counts.”
The discussion never grows heated but the two men repeatedly express confusion and frustration and suggest that complaints about the smoke are coming only from one neighbor.
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Graham tells the man in the orange that if he believes a neighbor is “harassing” him that he should “contact somebody about that.”
The video recently ran on Infowars.com where it was noted that the ordinance is part of the Environmental Protection Agency's aim to regulate everything from barbecues to wood stoves.
But a recent post from Phil Ammann on the Saint Peters Blog says the video only tells part of the story.
Ammann goes on to cite an email, that was recently made public, from Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard that said the video was the culmination of an ongoing problem at resident Scotty Jordan’s property.
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In the email to county commissioners, Woodard explained that Jordan was using commercial grilling equipment in a residential neighborhood, according to Ammann.
Thus, the environmental specialist was reportedly responding to a series of complaints regarding Jordan's barbecues.
Jordan had been cited only once by the city of St. Petersburg, despite 15 complaints being filed against him since September 2014, the blogger notes.
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, county spokeswoman marry Burrell said, “Pinellas County Air Quality has regulatory responsibility countywide and is obligated to respond to citizens' complaints.”
“It is important to note that the county was not there to regulate barbecue grilling,” she said. “A complaint was received about objectionable smoke and odor and an environmental specialist investigated the situation. The county has not issued any citations and there is no ordinance banning residential backyard barbecuing.”
According to the applicable codes, posted on the Saint Peters Blog, a “campfire or other fire” is permitted on residential property for “outdoor noncommercial preparation of food.”
A “cooking fire” is defined in the codebook as “the noncommercial, residential burning of materials not exceeding three feet (0.9 m) in diameter and two feet (0.6 m) in height … contained in an outdoor cooker, a barbecue grill, or a barbecue pit for the purpose of preparing food.”
Photo Credit: Screenshot from YouTube