A staff recommendation to limit outdoor burning in North Saanich to days with a good venting index remains on the table when councillors meet again on Nov. 23, as council continues to grapple with the controversial issue.
The recommendation to limit outdoor burning to days was one of five recommendations in a staff report before council Monday. Its would limit outdoor burning to days with a good venting index starting Feb. 21, 2021 and eliminate the municipality’s outdoor burning calendar.
Correspondence as well survey results point to no small measure of public opposition to tougher measures, even as public concerns about the negative effects of outdoor burning on human health and the environment have grown.
The rules permits burning on the first and third consecutive Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of each month in the season with the 2020-21 burning season having started on Nov. 5. The final three days of the outdoor burning season are May 6-8, 2021.
Under the current calendar, North Saanich residents would have 38 burning days.
“I don’t think anybody seems to be convinced around the table here that applying the venting index at this point is the way to go,” said Coun. Patricia Pearson, while calling for the cut of the permissible burning days in January and February from the calendar.
Ultimately, Pearson’s motion failed with Mayor Geoff Orr joining Coun. Heather Gartshore, Jack McClintock, Brett Smyth and Celia Stock in opposition. Coun. Murray Weisenberger supported the motion. Gartshore later expressed support for using the venting index.
The results of a public survey conducted over the summer seem to send conflicting messages to council.
On one hand, 52 per cent of respondents said they are somewhat or are very supportive of the idea of limiting burning to days with a good venting index. Thirty-two per cent said they were not at all or not very supportive of that measure. But 57 per cent also said they are very or somewhat supportive of keeping the same rules in place, which do not speak of using the venting index.
Also still unresolved is the question of restricting burning to parcels of land greater than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). That would restrict a “large number of lots from outdoor burning” that traditionally have had no restrictions, according to staff, impacting almost 2,000 households.
Council also punted the question of whether to double the cost of a permit to $50 to its next meeting.
Orr made a motion to push the issue into May 2021 to gather more information including the outcome of public budget consultation on green waste services.
Pearson with support of Garthshore questioned this move, noting that the public has been demanding action for some time. Council’s job is making decisions for the greater good of community, said Gartshore. Her comments eventually led to an approved motion to continue the discussion on Nov. 23. But it also divided council once again with McClintock, Smyth and Weisenberger opposed.
While Orr turned out to be the deciding vote, his comments questioned the utility of that meeting.
“I’m not convinced we will get anything, but I will further that, so we kind of compromise.”
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