Sechelt council gave three readings to a new open air burning bylaw at its regular meeting of council July 18.
The debate and discussion started at the July 11 committee of the whole meeting where councillors had trouble agreeing when it should be instituted.
The bylaw proposed at the meeting called for phasing out land clearing burning over a two-year period, allowing backyard burning for a two-year trial period and continuing to allow campfires and ceremonial fires.
Council hopes to address the negative effects on air quality from large land clearing burns through the new bylaw.
However, the proposed two-year timeframe in which land clearing burns can continue bothered some at the July 11 committee meeting.
Coun. Darnelda Siegers was the first to ask for a shorter phase-in period of six months.
“This has been on the books since 2009, so there’s awareness out there,” Siegers said in an attempt to calm concerns of some who felt developers needed more time to adjust.
Currently developers apply for a permit to burn debris, but once the new bylaw is in place, they will need to find alternative ways to dispose of it.
“I’m not in favour of the amendment you’re proposing,” Coun. Chris Moore told Siegers. “The six-month thing doesn’t work for me and the primary reason for that is that there’s a lot of clearing to be done and there’s not a lot of alternatives, financially strong, viable alternatives at this point.”
After some debate Siegers suggested phasing in the bylaw in one year; however, Moore wanted to give developers two fall seasons to dispose of their debris by burning.
Coun. Tom Lamb pushed for more time saying he’d like to see developers have until April 2014.
“I think that we’re not considering the people who have to breathe the air,” Coun. Alice Lutes noted. “We’re worrying about the developer and what it costs in their bottom line and as a taxpayer it’s costing us a lot more in health care, so I really am against extending it beyond six months.”
Several motions for different dates were offered and each time they were defeated until finally the majority of council agreed to Jan. 1, 2014 as the phase-in end date, meaning land clearing can be done by way of burning until then.
Council also unanimously agreed to develop a communication plan in an effort to educate the community on the new bylaw and how it will affect them.