Staff at the Cowichan Valley Regional District are presenting a number of options to the board on how to deal with the controversial use of fireworks in the district.
One option would be to ban fireworks entirely within all areas of the CVRD, while a second option would limit fireworks permits in the CVRD to organized events only, and would require all permit applications to be reviewed and approved individually by the board.
A third option is to have the chair of the board write a letter to all municipal councils inviting their participation in the development of a regional approach to fireworks regulation, which could include collaboration with senior levels of government.
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The district’s committee of the whole is expected to review and discuss the staff report on the issue at a meeting this week.
At a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 26, staff recommended to the board that permits for fireworks be issued for special events only, and each permit application be approved by the board.
But, after a lengthy discussion on the many health and safety issues around fireworks, the committee decided to have staff do some further research on the matter and provide a detailed report at a future COW meeting.
Currently, fireworks are only allowed with a permit three times a year — Halloween, New Year’s Eve and July 1 — within the CVRD, unless special permission is granted.
Ian MacDonald, the CVRD’s manager of building inspection and bylaw enforcement, said in his report to the COW that there continues to be a mixed desire from the public to permit the discharge of fireworks on private lands within the CVRD.
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He said staff have received numerous emails equally in favour and against the permitting of discharging fireworks on private property.
“Most complaints received pertained to the unpermitted discharging of fireworks in areas affected by livestock, including dates and time frames outside those permitted by the bylaw,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said while the sale of fireworks is prohibited in the CVRD, access is prevalent in neighbouring jurisdictions and online.
He said that while such purchases may be legal, it is incumbent on the purchaser to abide by the local fireworks bylaw where they plan to discharge them.
“From a practical standpoint it is difficult, from an investigation and enforcement perspective, to obtain the evidence required to identify those who discharge fireworks and take effective action, except in cases where bylaw officers actually witness the act taking place,” MacDonald said.
“Local RCMP have also experienced difficulty with enforcement. Education and awareness campaigns may be effective in reducing the discharge of fireworks. Such campaigns could emphasize the associated risks to livestock and domestic animals, noise pollution, environmental concerns and forest fire risk.”
MacDonald said the board may explore a range of regulatory changes to the fireworks bylaw; which include requiring permit holders to attain a fireworks operator certificate, and identifying specific geographic locations in the region where fireworks discharge is acceptable, and this may or may not be limited to specific dates.
He said the board may also consider increasing the minimum distance to livestock or to active farms (the minimum distance is currently 500 metres), and removing the option to discharge of fireworks on July 1, or more generally, during the summer months when there is a heightened fire risk.