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Commonwealth's Counties

Bill limiting regulation of fire hazard posed by mulch passes

HB 1595 (Wilt) and SB 972 (Obenshain) would allow any property owner to continue to add “combustible landscape cover material” (i.e. mulch) to an existing landcover, no matter how close to a building, regardless of any local ordinance preventing the addition of such ignition sources in proximity to structures.

A simple requirement adopted by the City of Harrisonburg to keep mulch at least 18 inches from a structure, prompted the legislation to prevent any locality from adopting commonsense rules to prevent a building from going up in flames due to mulch being too close to a structure. VACo opposed the measure and requested that localities should continue to have the ability to require a separation between combustible mulch and a building. Such a separation prevents fires and potentially saves lives. Additionally, other options exist for replacing existing groundcover with non-flammable material.

The bills now await action from Governor Ralph Northam. In testimony in committee his administration opposed the measure due to overriding concerns for public safety.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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