While Coun. Debbie Cannon sees proposed changes to the city’s pesticide bylaw as a step backward for health and the environment, the majority of council doesn’t support her view.
At Monday’s meeting of the development and planning services committee, council, with the exception of Coun. Chad Eliason who was absent, continued its discussion of proposed changes to the Pesticide Use Control Bylaw that was initially adopted in October 2008. Cannon spearheaded the council committee that helped create the original bylaw, which was intended to curb the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.
Cannon and Coun. Ken Jamieson were alone in opposing a change that would allow pesticides to be applied by a certified applicator on new seeded lawns, but not new turf lawns. Staff reported the city has a similar exemption to its sprinkling bylaw for new lawns.
“I think we’re really taking a step backward with the pesticide bylaw if we’re going to let people put pesticides on their lawns,” Cannon said, emphasizing that lawns are cosmetic. She noted that children and pets play on lawns, and research has shown pesticides are tracked into homes.
Coun. Kevin Flynn suggested there are likely only five to 10 new lawns per year in the city. He added that homeowners wouldn’t be allowed continued use of pesticides on them but would only get them off to a good start. He said such use of pesticides “is not just cosmetic – it makes lawns healthy.”
Coun. Ken Jamieson supported Cannon’s position, adding that in relation to the sprinkling bylaw, no living thing can live without water, but the same is not true for pesticides.
Coun. Alan Harrison said he doesn’t see how allowing pesticides on new lawns is a step backward for the bylaw, because newly seeded lawns are always roped off and are not a space where children play.
Another issue drawing debate was the recommendation in a staff report for an exemption for “pest epidemics.” The example given in the report was the aphid infestation of Linden trees on Alexander Street NE in 2009.
Cannon was alone in opposing the plan, stating she thinks of epidemics as being life-threatening. She noted that aphids aren’t life-threatening and they actually attract more birds.
“We’re acting as if we’re saving the world from aphids…”
Jamieson said he could foresee when the immediate use of pesticides might be necessary, if a stand of trees was threatened, for instance.
The motion to allow for a pest epidemic exemption included the request that staff come up with appropriate wording to define the term.
Council defeated a motion proposed by Cannon to have staff look at what type of ticketing might work for the bylaw. Although Coun. Ivan Idzan supported some kind of ticketing, he noted a better and properly funded educational program by the city on pesticide use is needed.
“I don’t have a problem with fines or no fines, but I’m not OK with not following through with education.”
A motion suggested by Idzan to add vegetable gardens – because they’re a food source – to the exemption for fruit trees in the bylaw was defeated in a tie vote, with Couns. Jamieson, Cannon and Harrison opposed.
Idzan noted that a speaker from the Canadian Cancer Society had told council that using pesticides to aid a food source is not considered cosmetic. Idzan added that he suspects most people wouldn’t use pesticides on their gardens.
At the meeting, council was working from a staff report submitted in August by Carl Bannister, the city’s chief administrative officer, in response to council’s request for a review of the bylaw. The staff report made a number of recommendations which council has discussed at planning meetings over the past couple of months.
Already approved at earlier meetings were: an exemption for pesticide use on urban and rural fruit trees; an exemption for the Sterile Insect Release program that targets the codling moth on fruit trees; an exemption for the noxious weed program run by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District; and a suggestion to define the terms ‘cosmetic’ and ‘hard landscape.’ Council also previously defeated a staff recommendation that certified applicators be exempt from any prohibition of pesticide use on private and public land.
City staff will now take the changes approved by council and incorporate them into a new bylaw to be considered at a future meeting of council.
BCLocalNews.com – Pesticide bylaw diluted.