Town Council hopes to create movement on idling issue

By Lorne Eckersley

A group of Creston Valley citizens, not all Town of Creston residents, appeared at the February 18th Committee of the Whole meeting to hear a response from their desire to see a reduction in idling vehicle emissions.

Some had suggested a bylaw be enacted to restrict the length of time vehicles can sit idling, citing concerns for air quality and unnecessary use of fossil fuels.

In his report to the meeting, Town Manager Mike Moore said that about 30 municipalities, most of them urban and densely populated, have bylaws.

“There are some inconsistencies that makes me wonder how they can be enforced,” Moore said. He said that while some communities put a tight cap on the length of time a vehicle can sit with the engine running—typically three minutes—at least one restricts it to no more than three minutes in a fifteen minute period.

“I don’t know how you monitor that,” Moore said.

Rather than look at idling as a single issue, he said, local governments are urged by senior levels of government to consider idling, the burning of solid fuels for heat and open burning of organic matter in a package that addresses air quality concerns.

Moore urged Council to invite the RDCK into the discussions, with some councillors pointing out the unfairness of neighbours having to abide by different laws just because one lives in Town and the other in the RDCK.

Moore said that the complaints about open burning of leaves and foliage have been reduced by approaches like offering fee-free disposal at the landfill in certain months.

“And another option is the composting drop-off at Hidden Valley Fibre,” Couns. Jen Comer said.

A rebate program for residents of the Town and Regional District who install more efficient wood-burning stoves is also in place.

Moore said that if bylaws are enacted to deal with these issues, Council must also consider the costs associated with enforcing them. He also outlined the policies that are in place to ensure Town vehicles are not left idling for any length of time, and that smoking in public places is banned.

“We should not have bylaws in place if we aren’t prepared to enforce them,” he said.

Following a lengthy discussion, the Committee of the Whole recommended that the Town of Creston open communications with the RDCK on these issues.

“We are optimistic,” Clements Verhoeven, one of the petitioners said. He said the group was pleased with the amount of consideration their concerns are being given and that they understand that bylaws are not necessarily the answer. He congratulated Council on its commitment to working with the RDCK.

Also at the Committee of the Whole meeting:

An item on the agenda read: “The Town of Creston has expressed concern over the cost of allocation of Environmental Services Fee to the Arrow Creek Water Service for the past 5 years. This report proposes suggested formulas or models for the financial allocation.”

Moore said that while the RDCK has suggested reducing the fee to the Arrow Creek service by 10 per cent until a more equitable agreement is reached, the suggested models are not clearly spelled out.

Couns. Jim Elford said that he would ask for more than a 10 per cent reduction be considered in the interim, and he did exactly that in an RDCK Rural Affairs Committee meeting in Nelson. Elford suggested a 25 per cent reduction and also that other options that could be considered, such as the Town of Creston taking over the Arrow Creek Water operation or a “judicial review” of the water service could be requested.

After discussions, Area A Director Garry Jackman moved that a 25% reduction be recommended to the RDCK board and the motion passed.

• Council directed staff to poll municipalities in the Kootenays to see which are members of their local chambers of commerce. The Town of Creston is not currently a member of the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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