Council voted by a margin of 5-1 (Coun. Catherine Lord was absent from Monday’s regular meeting) to instruct administration to determine if such a reduction program is possible, as well as establishing a bylaw to regulate cosmetic pesticide use on residential lands.
The city, as part of its current ‘crack and crevice’ program, gives two spray applications annually to stop unwanted vegetation from establishing in curbs and sidewalks. Pesticides are also applied in city boulevards, parks, sports fields and trees only when weed/pest densities reach a certain threshold.
Applications, according to a city report, are applied to only impacted areas and the work is completed by licensed contractors who are required to follow integrated pest management practices.
The current policy was established nine years ago, in 2009.
The lone dissenter was Coun. Scott Anderson, who asked why this was being done when there’s already policy in place.
“I think we’re asking staff to go and spend even more money looking at the policies and ending up with the same result,” said Anderson. “I’m not sure why we would do that. We’re going to end up with much of the same thing.”
City community infrastructure and development director Kim Flick explained staff was responding to two delegations council received: one from the Sustainable Environment Network Society (SENS), who asked council to undertake a cosmetic pesticide ban or reduction and presented a multi-page petition backing their request; and from a pair of qualified pesticide applicators in the city presenting a different viewpoint.
“Staff would undertake to update our best practices, survey other municipalities and update the costs,” said Flick, adding that no additional costs would be incurred as the research would be done on staff time.
Coun. Juliette Cunningham said things have changed and evolved tremendously in dealing with weeds, and there’s more information out now than in 2009.
“I think it’s a worthy thing to look at,” she said. “There are two points of view. We need to look at all of the information available to be able to make an informed, educated decision. Right now, with two opposing views, I can’t.”
Added Coun. Brian Quiring: “Clearly we need to get our heads into this and figure out what makes the most sense. If this can be achieved using our own resources, I think it’s a really good thing to do.”
Terry Dyck, a SENS director, was in the council gallery for the decision Monday, and was pleased with the direction.
“Vernon has finally caught up to many communities around B.C. who already have a cosmetic pesticide ban,” said Dyck. “It’s for the health of humans. The only opposition might have been from people who thought there might have been an economic impact, which I believe there won’t be. I think using people to pull weeds is better for the local economy.