‘Prisoner in my own home’: Residents complain about developer burning debris

LINCOLN COUNTY, N.C. — Neighbors in Lincoln County tell Channel 9 they’re sick of smoke coming from a new development project.

Century Communities is building Carpenter Farms, a community along Startown Road just outside Lincolnton, but in part of its jurisdiction.

The company has been clearing land to make way for about 200 houses and burning pile after pile of debris.

Multiple people living in the area complained to Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke about the smoke and soot getting on their property.

Tommy Smith lives about half a mile away and says he could smell it.

Michael Isaacs lives much closer. In fact, his house is one of the closest to the site.

“We understand that in our city’s eyes, that this is considered progress. But for us, it’s a huge setback on the quality of life,” Isaacs said. “I am stage four lung cancer. I am a survivor so far, and the Lord has blessed me with additional time, but I don’t want to waste it by being (a) prisoner in my own home for the summer from all of the smoke.”

Century Communities says it’s “committed to the safety and well-being of each community that we are a part of, including Lincolnton, and we continue to take every precaution necessary to ensure public safety. We have and will continue to operate safely, in accordance with city regulations and with approval from the fire marshal. We remain steadfast in our dedication to being a good neighbor.”

The City of Lincolnton defends the builder and says the burning has been perfectly legal. It says the company got all the valid burn permits and that it has monitored the burn process.

The city also says the state investigated the site and signed off on the burn as well. Stoogenke asked the state directly but did not hear back in time for this report.

In addition, North Carolina air quality officials say that, legally, “Smoke from allowable burning is not considered a nuisance.”

Stoogenke didn’t see any smoke Wednesday afternoon and Century Communities and the city both sent him statements saying the burning is over for good.

There were two buildings on the property and some neighbors were worried they had asbestos and that the developer burned them too. The city says a different contractor demolished those buildings and hauled away the debris instead of burning it.

No matter where you live, if your neighbor burns debris, know this: there are a lot of rules about open burning.

Click here for guidelines on open burns in North Carolina or click here for South Carolina’s guidelines.

There may be local ordinances too, depending on where you live.

(VIDEO: Neighbors say homes are being damaged by sunlight reflected from low-energy windows)

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