The City of Campbell River is considering amending two of its bylaws to force property owners to remove invasive plants and noxious weeds from their property.
But at least two councilors say the move is “too heavy handed,” especially considering the city itself hasn’t dealt with its own property yet.
The proposed bylaw amendment would impact both the Environmental Protection Bylaw and the Public Nuisance Bylaw and states, in part, that “every owner of property shall remove or cause to be removed from the property any noxious weeds or invasive plants on a regular basis or when ordered to do so by the city.”
The noxious weeds listed in the proposed amendment are giant hogweed, knotweed and yellow flag-iris and the invasive plant listed is scotch broom, but plant species could later be added or removed from the list “as required.”
The penalties for contravening the bylaw would be set at $250 for each offence and failure to comply could also mean the city would have the right to “take action to correct the situation with all costs and expenses defaulting to the owner.”
The amendment was given first and second reading at council, but Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he, at least, would need to see it reworked in order to pass it.
“It seems rather heavy handed,” Cornfield said. “As you know, I support controlling noxious and invasives and I always have, but to make it an offence for anyone to allow it to grow on their property and to for them to remove it from their private property, well, I have a little bit of concern that we have that hammer when I don’t think we have the resources necessary to enforce it on our own city property. Before we go heavy-handed on our citizens, we have to live up to a higher standard of accountability for the city’s land.”
Coun. Colleen Evans said her concerns about the bylaw surround a lack of an educational component.
“There will be a certain amount of education that would go along with it,” responded Terri Martin, the city’s environmental specialist, but admitted that it “won’t be a lot, because there’s a limited amount of funding, so we have to be cautious with it, and Greenways does a very good job of getting media releases out and information up on their website, as does Broombusters, so I think that will cover it. Of course, we do need more education around invasive plants, generally, and that’s something that has been covered in the larger implementation plan that came out a number of years ago.”
The city did set aside $10,000 this year for dealing with scotch broom on its property, but that won’t go very far, Coun. Larry Samson said, and agreed with Cornfield they shouldn’t be issuing fines for things the city doesn’t even have under control on its own land. He also agreed with Evans’ concerns about public education.
“I don’t want to say the city is the worst offender when it comes to having noxious weeds on its property, but it’s certainly up there,” Samson said, pointing to the provincial government as another “major offender.”
“I think until we get full buy-in, coming out with fines and penalties is too heavy handed. I would also like to see a higher educational component. To this day, I still see people dumping their landscaping – I don’t want to say garbage – on the beach.”
The bylaw amendment was given second reading and will now go to an upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting for, “tweaks,” as Cornfield put it.
“We need to have a more wholesome discussion on some aspects of this. One of the things I think should be there would be banning the sale of these plants, which would be an easy-to-implement item. That’s the kind of discussion I’m hoping to have at the Committee of the Whole.”