The Cowichan Valley Regional District has decided not to ban the use of fireworks at this time, but the district will invite all municipal councils in the Valley and adjacent First Nations to participate in a process to develop a regional approach to the issue.
The district’s committee of the whole passed that motion at its meeting on April 13 after a lengthy discussion mainly around the problems of enforcement if fireworks were completely banned in the CVRD.
The board is expected to endorse the COW’s motion at a later date.
Alison Nicholson, the director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora, said she appreciates the fact that the CVRD has decided on a regional approach to the controversial issue.
“I am hoping once we find out if municipal councils and First Nations are interested in participating in this process, this will come back to us with a plan for how this will happen,” she said.
Board chair and director for Cowichan Bay Lori Iannidinardo, who is a firm advocate of a complete ban on fireworks, was the only committee member to vote against a regional approach after her motion for a fireworks ban failed to get the backing of the majority at the table.
She said before the vote to adopt a regional approach that she heard from Ian MacDonald, the CVRD’s manager of building inspection and bylaw enforcement, earlier in the meeting that a total ban would be easier to enforce.
Iannidinardo said if a ban on fireworks was established in the CVRD, it would make it clear to everyone what the rules around fireworks are.
But Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone said the evidence points out that this is not the case.
“If you look at where outright bans have been put in place, the reporting shows it’s been no easier to enforce and has not made a measurable effect on the discharge of fireworks that are already illegal under our bylaws,” he said.
“I appreciate the different perspectives [from other committee members], but, practically speaking, this is a bit of folly.”
At a COW 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.
MacDonald said in a 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.
He said staff have received numerous emails equally in favour and against allowing 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.