A proposed bylaw that would limit the use of propane cannons left Abbotsford’s city council divided on Monday, and was ultimately struck down.
Council was split on whether to pass the third reading of a bylaw that would limit the use of audible bird scare devices (ABSDs) in Abbotsford.
At a public hearing last month, residents voiced their concerns about the bylaw, with blueberry farmers speaking against increased regulation, and other community members urging council to toughen restrictions.
The use of propane cannons to keep birds away from berry crops is protected by the provincial Right to Farm Act and farmers must follow guidelines set out by the ministry of agriculture. The city does not have the authority to enforce those guidelines. To further regulate cannons, the city must create a “farm bylaw” that require approval from the ministry.
The proposed bylaw called for registration fees for cannons, as well as signs that provided a telephone number in case of complaints. It would restrict the hours of use, and the amount of shots allowed per hour. The bylaw would also increase the distance the devices would have to be from neighbouring homes, and increase fines for violations.
Council defeated the bylaw at Monday’s meeting, with councillors Patricia Ross, John Smith, Bill MacGregor and Mayor Bruce Banman voting to move the bylaw on for ministry approval, and councillors Henry Braun, Dave Loewen, Moe Gill and Les Barkman against. Coun. Simon Gibson was absent from council due to his election to the legislature as the MLA for Abbotsford-Mission.
Banman told council “this issue is as polarizing as the cannons themselves.”
Braun said the restrictions set out by the bylaw were too strict, saying he is in favour of a farm bylaw that would allow the city to enforce the ministry’s guidelines, but not the bylaw that was in front of council. He explained that the bylaw as proposed would have an adverse economic impact on blueberry farmers, who would be unable to protect their crops. Braun added that he was unconvinced the ministry would approve the bylaw as proposed.
Smith, who was involved in the drafting of the bylaw, said the impact on neighbouring residents is too severe to delay the issue any further. He said the bylaw should be sent to the ministry and “let them take the heat” for approval or disproval, adding it was a defeatist attitude to not send it to the ministry because it may be rejected.
The issue was sent back to city staff who have been advised to work with the ministry to work towards a different solution.