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