Proposed wood-burning bylaw getting clause-by-clause review

September 29, 2016   ·   0 Comments

When Orangeville Council’s Outdoor Wood Burning Review Committee reported its findings to council Monday, most of its recommendations won support.

The goal of the committee was to create a new way of dealing with open air fires in Orangeville, specifically how to ensure that those who have difficulty with smoke can live in harmony with people who enjoy outdoor fires.

The proposed new bylaw covers health care facilities, long term care operations, seniors’ residences and other areas within the town that might create an uncomfortable experience for others.

The project was a controversial one for many in the community. Some felt town council should not be legislating something that is done within the sanctuary of private residences, while others with health conditions or a natural distaste for smoke advocated for a town-driven solution.

Councillor Sylvia Bradley, who chaired the committee, said “much work was done by the committee, much research”. Addressing those in the council chambers, she advised: “Provincially, fires are not allowed in any municipality unless there is a bylaw to permit it. The committee listened to the community and made some significant revisions” in the existing bylaw. She also noted that since “less than 4% of the population had permits” the issue really did affect only a small percentage of the local population.

Fire Chief Ron Morden had also spent significant time working with the committee on the project. He and his department felt strongly that the committee should reconsider setbacks – the space between the property line and the fire.

“Everyone’s interpretation of a safe site is different,” he said. Other key considerations he put forth were that construction burns also create issues for residents, waste with dirt and grass cause issues, and time lines for those trying to sleep at night were important.

Many of the councillors had concerns regarding the final wording of the bylaw.

Councillor Gail Campbell wanted hours of operation to be addressed, especially given “that most fires are at night”.

Terming the proposed bylaw “overly complex,” she added that it was difficult “to balance all of the items back and forth.”

Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock felt enforcement of any bylaw would be the main issue. “How will we enforce this?”

Fire Chief Morden’s response was, “We must educate the public on the rules to ensure compliance.” He also explained that compliance fines can be issued under the Provincial Offences Act. The Fire Prevention Act could also be used to enable fire prevention officers to issue a fine that could be thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the offence.

Voting by council began with a repeal of the current bylaw. After some debate council realized that they would not be able to agree to pass the new bylaw as drafted. Instead it was determined that voting on specific sections would be the best way to proceed.

By a 4-3 vote Council did accept Section 6.9, which declares: “No person who conducts open air burning shall create an adverse effect. An adverse effect would be determined by the fire department and speaks specifically to not creating damage to a property, a person, animals, plants or jeopardizing public safety.”

By the same margin, Council then adopted Sections 3.11 and 6.2. Section  3:11 defines a “Sensitive Receptor” as including a healthcare facility, senior’s residence, long-term care facility, or other place where smoke may be a greater risk to the health of a group or individual to the environment.

Section 6.2  prohibits open air burning on any property that contains a multiple dwelling unit or townhouse.

Council unanimously approved Section 7.1: “Open air burning of waste from residential, commercial, construction, agricultural or industrial establishment is prohibited.”

And by a 6-1 vote Section 8.7 was approved: “No person shall set a fire or permit a fire to burn, other than between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., at which time fire must be fully extinguished prior to the applicant/the owner leaving the burn site; unless otherwise expressly permitted by the Chief Fire Official.”

There was difficulty finding agreement on the matter of setback, specifically how much space would be required for the fire to be from any property line. After much debate, council agreed that three metres was appropriate.

Finally, nearing the end of over two hours of debate, Council decided to discuss the frequency in which residents would be able to have an outdoor fire.

Councillor Scott Wilson suggested that the bylaw should say that individuals could have just one fire per month, but would need to provide four days’ advance notice to the fire department that they would be having a fire. Any permits required would need to be posted in a visible place.

Although a motion to that effect passed, Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock was strongly opposed, saying he did not feel it was reasonable to limit the number of fires individuals could have.

Ultimately, it was agreed that the proposed bylaw, including aspects debated on Monday, will be on the Oct. 17 council agenda.

Councillor Bradley offered this assessment of the evening: “I am very pleased with the outcome of the OWB proposed bylaw.  Most of the recommendations were approved and it is realistic not to expect to get everything we asked for.  Important changes will certainly go a long way to protect the vulnerable citizens from backyard fire smoke and yet allow those who wish to engage in this recreational activity continue to do so in a safer manner.  This bylaw was a compromise between those wishing a total ban to fires to those wishing for no restrictions to fires.  I believe we struck the balance.”

The next step will be to pass the revised proposed bylaw at our next meeting on Oct. 17th.  Deputy Mayor Maycock has voiced his concern about restricting fires to one per month.

In her closing remarks, Councillor Bradley stated, “I’m hoping that those of us who voted in favour of that recommendation are willing to withdraw that clause.  I will be very happy to have this bylaw completed and implemented for the next season.”

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