Pinellas County, FL — Who knew that the all-American tradition of backyard barbecue could result in a visit from the State, in the Land of the “Free,” giving you a warning for firing up the pit? Well, it happened in Pinellas County, Florida to Scotty Jordan earlier this week.
In a video uploaded to Facebook on July 22, Joe Graham from Air Compliance is writing a complaint form for “objectionable odor” from Jordan’s property where he was barbecuing. A neighbor living across the street called to complain, as she has apparently done many times before.
This time she found a willing co-conspirator.
“I can smell it again right now, but I’m on your property,” Graham tells the group. “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.”
“So we’re supposed to control the smoke and the wind and where it’s blowing it?” he asks.
The Environmental Specialist says, “What you’re doing looks like it may be counter to the rule as far as the objectionable odor,” as he looks at his clipboard for reassurance.
“You have smoke leaving…that’s prohibited. I saw smoke leaving your property.” So he’s going to “write it up and send it to our department.”
The ridiculous nature of this visit results from the fact that in Pinellas County, “Commercial barbecue cookers are not exempt from causing a nuisance odor,” according to their website. It is part of a larger set of rules regarding air quality, normally reserved for things like asbestos and trash burning.
However, Mr. Jordan should have nothing to fear. The Frequently Asked Questions goes further to state, “If a sufficient number of complaints, representing different households, are reported and an Inspector witnesses the problem, they can issue a Warning Letter.”
According to this, he could not get a Warning Letter unless more than one neighbor complained. And this is unlikely to happen, since, according to Jordan, “Everybody else cooks out around here.”
The cameraman says, “We’ve been living here for 40 years, and this is the first time this happened.”
He is referring to the visit from Air Compliance. Since the neighbor moved in three years ago and began complaining, she has called the police and fire departments. “They tell me to go ahead on” and keep barbecuing, according to Jordan.
Graham has an answer for this too. “The police and the fire department are looking at different parts of the rule.”
And so continues the endless splitting of hairs, red herrings, and absence of common sense that characterizes nanny state bureaucracies.