Courtenay council has adopted a nuisance bylaw amendment intended to better regulate excessive wood smoke. The amendment says nuisance smoke visibly drifts onto a neighboring property, and interferes with the use and enjoyment of private or public property.
Manno Theos was the lone member of council to oppose the amendment at the Oct. 3 meeting. Like noise complaints, he feels bylaw infractions concerning smoke would be difficult to enforce, and would take up too many resources. He would prefer to see efforts invested on education.
Council allowed resident Serena Patterson to speak about the matter. While she recognizes health issues associated with wood smoke, Patterson harbours concerns about implications of the bylaw.
“It reads as though it moves straight to punitive measures for an ill-defined infraction, without time for preparation, and without consideration of the range of smoke exposures,” she said.
Patterson worries the bylaw — without warning — would penalize those who are unable to shift heating resources at the start of winter. Many people, including renters and those on fixed incomes, use wood stoves as a main heat source. Objections from neighbours about visible smoke could result in a de facto ban on heating with wood, she added. Although she supports the spirit of the bylaw, Patterson suggests tweaking the definitions.
CAO Geoff Garbutt said the bylaw is based on research and good practice.
Coun. Doug Hillian said most of Patterson’s points, including adverse effects on low income earners, were raised at the previous council meeting. In addition, staff said enforcement would be a last resort after other measures had been taken.
Director of corporate services Kate O’Connell said there has to be a persistent state of non-compliance to be a cause of nuisance.
“It’s the existence of that persistent state that would give us time to work with the resident on identifying alternative burning sources that may be more appropriate,” she said.
O’Connell said an egregious continuation of non-compliance with the bylaw is when a ticket would be issued.