Urbana City Council Bans Outdoor Use of Indoor Furniture
By a 5 to 2 vote, the Urbana City Council has banned the outdoor use of indoor furniture.
Council members Heather Stevenson and Dennis Roberts cast the two votes against the ban. Both of them said the government had no business telling people what they could do with furniture at their own homes and yards. Roberts says he's gotten a lot of feedback from the public on the ban, most of it in opposition.
"They agree that the city is sort of tip-toeing into overregulation of people's habitats and homes", said Roberts.
But Alderman Dave Gehrig argues that the dangers involved in keeping flammable indoor furniture out of doors are too great to ignore.
It's more than a decade since we had a fire death in Urbana, and this is about trying to keep it that way", said Gehrig.
Gehrig cited last month's fire at a rental house on Stoughton Street near Lincoln Avenue. Eight people were displaced --- one of them severely burned --- when fire in a couch on the front porch spread to the entire house.
Urbana Fire Chief Michael Dilley says the outcome could very well have been fatal.
"We dodged a bullet, so to speak", says Dilley. "And we decided, I don't want to ever go to another fire again, and see a young lady of that age, with the type of burns on her body pulled out of a building like, if I can do anything about it. As fire chief, that's my job."
Dilley says indoor furniture stored on a porch or elsewhere outdoors can be easily set ablaze, and a fire can be well underway before people inside the house find out about it.
Urbana's ordinance is similar to one already on the books in Champaign. Repeat offenders will be subject to possible fines set by a judge. The ordinance makes exceptions for furniture brought outside to be sold at a yard sale, or left out for garbage pickup.