Electoral area residents will continue to pay for private garbage pickup and haul out recycling on their own for the time being.
After bylaws to establish roadside garbage and recycling pickup failed through the alternative approval process (AAP), the Comox Valley Regional District board could have chosen to go to referendum for the electoral areas. Staff pointed out the board could put the matter before voters or abandon the initiative.
For now, the board is holding off, though the CVRD will look at options for the future, though directors noted the challenge the region faces for its goal of diverting more materials from the landfill.
“Unfortunately, it’s problem that’s going to persist,” Area A director Daniel Arbour said.
Area C director Edwin Grieve touched on arguments made that the AAP is undemocratic, saying the fact that more than 2,000 people, representing between 12 and 15 per cent from around the electoral areas, responded with forms expressing opposition indicated public opinion was recognized.
He said he hoped to defer going ahead for now, so the CVRD can gauge public opinion more, though he also felt some residents raised valid concerns.
“There was some good comments,” he said.
For now, the sense is there is too little time in an 80-day window before the bylaw expires to go to referendum. However, Grieve said the issue is not going to go away because too much material is going into the landfill that should not be and already it is straining landfill cell space. He mentioned a recent budget amendment of $8.5 million at Comox Strathcona Waste Management to plan for a second new cell.
“There’s just too many recyclable products ending up in our landfill,” he said. “We have to find a better way of collecting it…. You either pay for it one way or the other.”
The board decision followed a discussion at the Electoral Area Services Committee meeting the previous day. Staff said the main points of opposition were a wish for an opt-out clause, the decision to expand regional district service and the use of the AAP.
At the committee meeting, Grieve mentioned the CSWM budget amendment for the new cell but accepted some residents want different options, including an opt-out clause or considerations for places with secondary suites. Staff clarified that the CSWM budget amendment was to free up money for engineering work on cell two, though the project is not over budget and the first cell is filling up as expected.
Arbour said he did not feel the CVRD had time before the expiration of the bylaws to move ahead with a vote and suggested they consider some kind of option on the local government election ballot in late 2022. It would give them time to consider a public option or contract out for service, though he added he felt the current proposal was good but could be developed.
“Some of the public feedback makes me think that maybe we didn’t go far enough into our ultimate vision of what we’d like to see in the Comox Valley,” he said.
Area B director Arzeena Hamir, who chairs EASC, echoed some of the disappointment about not moving forward on service but realized some people do not believe the region should go into this waste hauling.
“What we have right now … the system is not working. It’s expensive for those of us who are paying for private garbage hauling,” she said. “We do have a considerable amount of recyclables going into the landfill.”
She agreed with the staff recommendation not to seek electoral approval through a referendum right now and consider an option for the next election. She also suggested looking at some kind of improved market mechanism to help reduce inappropriate material being disposed of in the landfill.