Ucluelet’s ability to enforce its bylaws came under fire last week as the town’s municipal council faced questions around fireworks being set off in the community.
During the public input portion of last week’s regular council meeting, Ukee resident Jeanne Keith-Ferris suggested that provincial and municipal regulations on fireworks were seemingly ignored when Ucluelet rang in the New Year.
Under B.C.’s Fireworks Act, fireworks can only be soldfrom Oct. 24-Nov. 1 and Ucluelet’s municipal Fireworks Bylaw further stipulates that firecrackers are not permitted at any time of year and that permits must be obtained for any fireworks displays, except between Oct. 24-31. The bylaw further stipulates that fireworks cannot be directed towards buildings, vehicles or trees.
“How is it that one gets those applied when there’s an infraction that’s being seen and witnessed,” Keith-Ferris asked.
Coun. Marilyn McEwen, who was serving as acting mayor in Mayco Noel’s absence, suggested calling the district’s bylaw department to report infractions and district CAO Mark Boysen confirmed this as the appropriate action for a resident to take.
Boysen added that several complaints came in on New Year’s Eve.
“There were some cases where there were some very large fireworks beyond the typical small firecrackers you see once in a while,” Boysen said.
Keith-Ferris suggested reports were made, but no action was taken.
“What does it take to actually have your bylaws enforced,” she asked. “Because, this is occurring throughout our municipality.”
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She added that Ucluelet’s bylaw department does not receive complaints after 11 p.m. and that residents are directed to send their concerns to the RCMP, who might be busy with other priorities.
“What if the RCMP doesn’t choose to go and actually observe the event that you’re describing and wanting some action taking against? Are we supposed to wait for the next morning or the next business week and follow up with a bylaw officer and put in a formal written complaint? Please advise how we can get further action going,” she said.
Bruce Greig, who oversees Ucluelet’s bylaw enforcement, said RCMP pass along any information they receive to the district office.
“Bringing forward a complaint and whatever evidence a citizen has is the first step and the bylaw officer will then investigate,” he said.
Sgt Steve Mancini of the Ucluelet RCMP told the Westerly News that police received a number of complaints regarding fireworks between 9-11 p.m. On New Year’s Eve.
“Ultimately, we have to prioritize our calls for service and noise complaints and such may not be what’s a priority at that time, depending on what other calls for service we’re dealing with,” Mancini said. “So, it may take us a little bit longer to get to it, but we’ll still definitely look into it and, if nothing else, point you in the direction of bylaw, if that’s where the file should go.”
Keith-Ferris added that, apart from the noise created, the displays she witnessed were dangerous.
“I’m referring to things such as M80’s that have huge concussive force, bottle rockets, firecrackers, fountains that shoot 60, 70, 80 feet in the air and onto roads, so cars passing by are going to have to go through a shower of debris falling down,” she said. “It continues year after year. That suggests that our law isn’t being applied, or it doesn’t have teeth.”
Resident Joe Atkinson said guests staying at Water’s Edge Resort were likely unaware of the town’s bylaws when he was startled by a fireworks display on Jan. 3 and he suggested accommodation providers should do more to bring tourists up to speed on what is and isn’t allowed.
“I was taking my dog for its evening relief on the beach there and the minute the dog sat down to do its business, fireworks went off by the gazebo and scared the crap out of the dog and me too,” he said.
He said he called the bylaw department, but was advised that, without having witnessed the person setting off the fireworks, it would be hard to move forward with an investigation.
Greig said district staff are preparing a report to council with recommendations around how bylaws could better be enforced.
“It’s really council’s decision on what is the level of response warranted and what’s the resources that are devoted to that,” he said.