County puts burning bylaw amendments on back burner

By Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County – County Council voted 6-1 Apr. 10 in favour of putting third reading of amendments to their burning bylaw on the back burner until the June 27 meeting so more research and changes can be made to the document.

Council had given first and second reading to the bylaw Mar. 13. At that time the principal change to the bylaw would be a year-round requirement for fire permits. Sturgeon County has traditionally required fire permits from Apr. 1 until Oct. 31; however, changes in climate have led to dry conditions in Sturgeon County in the off seasons as well. Under the proposed amendments there would be no charge to county residents for the burning permit, but the permits would be required throughout the year.

The bylaw that returned to Council Apr. 9 had some further revisions based on Council’s directions to Fire Chief Pat Mahoney in March. These revisions included a clear definition on outdoor fires and provide an exemption for smudging fires that protect livestock from insects or that protect garden plans from frost. Additional revisions prevent residents in Hamlet Residential Districts, County Residential 1 Districts and Country Residential Estate Districts from lighting fires for the purpose of ground thawing. The remaining revision deals with obstructing peace officers, fire guardians or fire department members in the performance of their duties pursuant to the bylaw or the Forest Prairie Protection Act.

[SUBHEAD]Burn barrels an issue

Council did not seem to have much trouble with Mahoney’s revisions, but were generally concerned with preventing residents from using burn barrels.

Councillor Tom Flynn said he had calls from two subdivisions that had larger properties and had been allowed to have burn barrels in the past. “This would effectively eliminate that right for them to have a burning barrel,” he said. “I wonder if that isn’t a bit of an issue for some of the subdivisions. I think we might be penalizing some of the people who have been very compliant in the past.”

Mahoney said under the proposed bylaw properties 2.47 acres and larger would be allowed to have burn barrels, something Councillor Flynn said should be reduced in size. “I was thinking something closer to an acre and bigger lots,” Flynn said.
Councillor Ken McGillis suggested the County could issue a year-round burn barrel permit conditional upon a site inspection by County fire officials. “I think sending it [the bylaw]back to have one more look at it might not be a bad idea,” McGillis said, adding he knew of a senior in his division who frequently and safely used a burn barrel. “To deny her the opportunity to burn in a burning barrel, which she does quite safely, would be doing her an injustice.”

For Councillor David Kluthe, there was a general opposition to year-round permits of any sort. “I’ve talked to a lot of residents over that issue,” Kluthe said. “I got an overwhelming no. We don’t need any more rules. Whether we got a good reason or not, the people we represent don’t want it.”

Mayor Don Rigney said there was no real rush to put the new bylaw in place as the County had entered its fire season Apr. 1 where fire permits were required. The mayor felt the bylaw, if passed by June, would still be in sufficient time to have everything in place for the fall and winter months.

“There’s more than just year-round permitting here, which I don’t thing addresses the unique rural / urban nature of this community,” Rigney said. “I think we really have to be careful. Maybe we can make a few adjustments by June and roll this out.”

Councillor Flynn also supported taking more time. “I do like to make sure we take the time to get it right here,” Flynn said “I’d like to see some adjustments to the burning barrel incinerator ruling. I’d rather send this back and make an adjustment and get that part of it fixed.”

Councillor Karen Shaw cast the only opposing vote to deferring third reading until June. The bylaw is set to return to Council for third reading June 27.

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