City council votes on fireworks and West End development
The regular Vancouver city council meeting of February 26, 2013 came to order at 9:35am.
Councillor Andrea Reimer gave the welcome and began by acknowledging the Coast Salish peoples, whose unceded traditional territory the council meets on every day. She also thanked the Coast Salish peoples for allowing the use of the territory and for their patients in seeking reconciliation of their titles and rights. Reimer hoped that council could honour the obligations that come with accepting the hospitality of the Coast Salish peoples.
Matters adopted on consent
There were four items adopted on consent, all of them administrative reports. The first was “Business License/Chauffeur's Permit Hearing Panels – May to December 2013.” The report was a schedule of hearings to be held from May to December, though there are no hearings scheduled in December. Staff also assigned three councillors and an alternate (in case someone is sick) to each meeting.
The next item was “Local Improvement Flat Rates – 2012.” Some “local improvements” were completed in 2012 and this report requested that council approve the flat rates that will be charged to property owners on their next property tax statement. The overall flat rate will be divided among property owners based on foot frontage, but the good news is that the overall rate was lower than originally expected.
“Vancouver City Planning Commission 2013 Operating Grant” was the third item adopted on consent. The report requested that council approve an operating grant for the Vancouver City Planning Commission. The VCPC is responsible for advising council on issues that relate to the planning and development of Vancouver.
The last item was “2013 Heather Marina Moorage Rates and Other Fees.” This report seeks council’s approval to increase the moorage rates at Heather Marina, so that they remain reflective of the market, and to request an enhancement condition assessment for the marina.
Councillor Adriane Carr requested that the two other administrative reports on the agenda be held for debate.
Fire Chief John McKearney gave a presentation on consumer fireworks. The presentation was a follow up to the motion brought forward by Councillor Louie in July 2012, to have staff report back on the sale and use of consumer fireworks in Vancouver.
McKearney recommended that council limit the use of consumer fireworks to designated public areas and require permits for the use of fireworks in these areas. The sale of fireworks would continue to be restricted, but the sale and use of fireworks would be extended from just Halloween to include New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, Diwali and Vaisakhi.
After McKearney finished his presentation, councillors were given the opportunity to ask him questions.
Councillor Kerry Jang clarified that the new plan would mean that residents could use fireworks in designated parks or other spaces, but not on public property.
Councillor Carr asked if other communities use this model and staff told her that they were proposing something unique. She also asked if sales would be restricted to those with an approved fireworks plan. Staff said yes, but that they were still working out all the details.
Councillor Elizabeth Ball asked if members of the fire department would supervise consumer fireworks displays. McKearney said that some responsibility would fall to the individual who had obtained the permit, but that the fire department would schedule a unit to stop in at the event, emergencies permitting.
Councillor Raymond Louie thanked staff for the report and said he was pleased that it both expanded the use of fireworks and accounted for safety concerns.
Councillor Reimer asked if there was a time limit for setting off fireworks. McKearney said time limits had not yet been considered and that staff would have to consult city noise by-laws while finalizing the plan.
Councillor George Affleck said he was pleasantly surprised by the report, as the original motion asked staff to “report back to City Council with recommendations for additional but limited periods of consumer fireworks sales and discharge similar to the current allowance in place for Halloween.” Affleck said that the current recommendations didn’t seem similar to current policy at all and wanted to know what had happened since the original motion was made in July.
McKearny and City Manager Penny Ballem responded to Affleck by saying that they had tried to honour the original intent of the motion, but had also tried to improve safety.