Concerns over potential environmental impacts led Tofino's municipal council to deny a large-scale burn permit for 350 Fourth St..

Tofino’s council denies large-scale burn permit

"Citizens expect to see council considering environmental and health concerns when it comes to land development and that’s what we did.”

A burning question that became a hot topic in Tofino has been answered.

The owners of 350 Fourth St. will need to find another way to get rid of 2,400 metres-cubed of wood debris as their large-scale burn request has been denied by Tofino’s municipal council.

The owners had hoped to clear the debris so they could move forward with developing the land; a rezoning application attached to the lot is slated to bring roughly 420 housing units to Tofino.

In a report submitted to council on Aug. 23, Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers wrote that district staff were in favour of allowing the burn and that provincial guidelines would be followed. These guidelines include an air curtain incinerator and a prohibition on flames whenever the wind is blowing towards populated areas.

Rodgers added the only alternative to burning the debris would be trucking it out, which would take roughly 2,000 truck loads and cost the owners roughly $300,000.

Tofino’s municipal council seemed hesitant to allow the burn when they first reviewed Rodgers’ report and their hesitation evolved into an official refusal during their Oct. 25 regular meeting. Their decision to deny the permit was unanimous.

Mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News after the meeting that council must view all its decisions through an environmental lens.

“Council understands that our economy, livelihoods and quality of life depend on a healthy, functioning natural environment,” she said.

“Although all human activities impact the environment, it’s not a question of environment versus economy, but environment and economy. In other words, I think we recognize that when people live within the natural limits and means of the region’s environment, we can all thrive. To me, that is a central tenet of being Biosphere Reserve citizens.”

She added allowing the burn would not have jived with Tofino’s reputation.

“Tofino is world-renowned as a community that values and cares about the natural environment. I think our decision certainly conveys, or reinforces, a message to developers and residents that we expect to see development approached sensitively, with awareness and use of ecological principles in planning and decision-making,” she said.

“We understand that there are trade-offs to make and that nothing happens with absolutely no impact but, on the whole, Tofino’s citizens expect to see council considering environmental and health concerns when it comes to land development and that’s what we did.”