Harrison Hot Springs could soon follow in the environmental footsteps of Vancouver.
During its regular meeting on Monday, Harrison Hot Spring’s Village Council introduced a draft bylaw that would prohibit the commercial distribution of single-use plastic. The proposed bylaw must go through three readings before it can officially be adopted as an enforceable bylaw.
The council voted unanimously to bring the proposed bylaw into consideration.
The council first discussed the issue last June, when they directed village staff to research option to phase out single-use plastics and to gather feedback from local businesses to determine short- and long-term commercial effects.
The village sent out a 10-question survey to local businesses, mailed out with business licence renewals as well as through the village website and emailed via Tourism Harrison and the local chamber of commerce to their members. Staff reported the response rate was low. Of the businesses that did respond, however, 71 percent provided single-use plastics to their customers. A majority of these same respondents said would take between one to six months to run out of single-use plastic stocks; 34 percent said it would take even longer.
Two respondents provided biodegradable or compostable materials. No respondents charged for single-use plastic bags or sell reusable shopping bags. One business said they sell non-branded shopping bags.
“Although single-use items fit conveniently into our current lifestyle, they are a problem,” Piper said. “Implementing this law will join the other 30 or so BC municipalities that are currently taking action to address the issue.”
“We can do better and we must do better,” she added.
Councillor Gerry Palmer said he supported the bill but would like to see a step further in the future.
“The single greatest place I see single-use plastics is on the beach in the park in the summer time,” he said. “And I would be happy to see a bylaw that precludes people from bringing single-use plastics and disposing of it along the beach.”
Rhonda Schell, community services coordinator, said the bylaw was intended to be in effect by Canada Day 2020.
Mayor Leo Facio suggested as an incentive to promote reusable and biodegradable alternatives that the village purchase reusable bags with the village logo for distribution on a first-come-first-serve basis; this program could be expanded if it goes well and fits in the village budget, Mayor Facio added. Mayor Facio motioned to set money aside for this initiative and it passed 4-1 with Councillor Piper casting the opposing vote.
Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to enact a ban on single-use plastics, with the council voting to phase in the band last November. The timeline has already begun with the ban on foam cups and take-out containers in effect as of the New Year. April ushers in the next phase, when a ban on plastic and compostable plastic straws will be take effect. By that time, single-use plastic utensils will only be available upon request.
In other Council business:
The Village Council voted to refer a bylaw back to village staff that would outline regulations concerning barbecue areas, to make further adjustments to the wording of the bylaw. Barbecue area regulations have recently been an ongoing source debate in the community with almost 20 local businesses calling for restrictions for barbecues and tents on the beach. The businesses cited the presence of the barbecues on the beach being a significant detraction for business and an eyesore to the otherwise scenic waterfront.
The council voted 4-1 also voted to refer a bylaw back to the village staff that would outline, among other items, beach curfew restrictions from 6am to 11pm. Mayor Facio cast the opposing vote.
“That concerns me a bit,” said Councillor Palmer said of the curfew and its associated violation fines. “I’ve certainly wandered through that park at midnight in the summer, and I’ve seen joggers there before 6 in the morning in the summer.” He added he understood why the regulation was in place but suggested modifications could be necessary and that the current wording is “unnecessarily draconian.”
“It has made a tremendous difference on July 1 by getting everybody off the beach, where we used to have fist fights and drinking and everything else going on,” Mayor Facio said of the current curfew enforcement. He added the curfew was based on local RCMP recommendation.
“With all due respect, I think if a family or you and your wife were going for a walk, nobody is going to come up and tell you to move on,” Mayor Facio said to Councillor Palmer. “It was there for a reason and it’s worked very well especially for the festival times.”
The Village Council unanimously approved a $20,000 expenditure for this year’s budget to upgrade the village website with a reserve fund of $4,000 per year for future upgrades and maintenance.
Schell said the website is one of the primary tools to provide information to residents. Schell said finding information thorugh the current content management system is flawed and not as user-friendly as it could be.
“A well-designed website is also an opportunity to showcase the community, which can result in resident and business attraction and support for retention as well,” she added.
The council voted 4-1 in favour of adding a contractor working at the ice rink to the municipal insurance policy. Councillor Ray Hooper was the opposing vote.
The council unanimously approved drafting a letter of support to the City of Abbotsford concerning the upcoming 2022 55+ BC Games. The letter from Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun noted that Harrison Hot Springs previously served as a sailing venue when Abbotsford hosted the 2016 55+ BC Games and sought the same form of support for the summer 2022 events.
The Village Council has scheduled their next meeting for February 3, 2020 at 7pm in the Village Council Chambers at 495 Hot Springs Rd.