Coun. Janis Elkerton voted against increasing the burning permit fee after taking calls from farmers who opposed it.

Coun. Janis Elkerton voted against increasing the burning permit fee after taking calls from farmers who opposed it.

Pitt burning permit fee increases

Farmers in Pitt Meadows disappointed that $25 trial fee will now be $90

Pitt Meadows will increase its fee for a burning permit to $90 next year, despite protests from the city’s farming community.

City council rescinded a $25 trial fee Tuesday, bumping the cost for farmers who want to dispose green waste to $90.37.

The increase was not supported by the city’s agricultural advisory committee, which also requested the burning season be increased to include May and September.

The City of Pitt Meadows permits agricultural burning annually during two seasons; March 1 to April 30 and Oct. 1 to Nov. 30.

“This fee didn’t come out of the blue. It’s four years old,” Pitt Meadows fire chief Don Jolley said in response to comments that farmers were suddenly being hit by a spike in fees.

The original bylaw and $100 permit fee was created in 2009.

Jolley noted the bylaw has resulted in a 69-per-cent reduction in burning complaints, and a 52-per-cent decrease in nuisance and grass or brush fires.

“It has had significant impact on fire department call volume, the congruent burden on volunteer firefighters, and the associated costs of responses under the paid on call model,” Jolley said in a report to council.

The fee was reduced last summer on a trial basis. But following a review, staff recommended the fee be increased.

The fire department claims the city is not recouping costs associated with processing permits at $25.

The city would like farmers to find more sustainable, less polluting ways to get rid of green waste. Meanwhile, Metro Vancouver anticipates further tightening on open burning in the coming years to improve air quality.

“I want to remind people of the number of years we had illegal burning in this community. The people who hid tires and huge pieces of plastic in their burn piles,” Coun. Gwen O’Connell said Tuesday before voting in favour of a higher permit fee.

“I don’t think I’m trying to rip the farmers off. We are trying to discourage burning in the community.”

Coun. Doug Bing reminded residents that times have changed.

“Metro Vancouver has ruled that open burning needs to stop. For the farmers, it’s a privilege, not a right to burn,” he added.

“They are lucky that they are still allowed to burn with the changes that Metro Vancouver introduced.”

Couns. Janis Elkerton and Dave Murray voted against the $90.37 permit fee, saying they’ve received many calls from the agricultural community, asking them to intervene.

“They feel like they are getting nickel and dimed,” said Murray.

“The burning thing is a huge concern for them. All of a sudden, now out of the blue, to have cost recovery for something like this, doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

To support reinstating a higher permit fee, the city compiled a break-down of administrative costs, showing how much it costs to process a single permit.

For Scott Pelton, who sits on the city’s agricultural advisory committee, doesn’t agree with the increase.

“I think Pitt Meadows council should be supporting the largest industry in the municipality,” said Pelton

“The permit fee is an artificial number they came up with. To me, any costs they are throwing at the farmers for the burning permit is an attempt to deter us from burning.”

Pelton, however, doesn’t think the $90 permit fee will stop burning.

“Farming does need to burn. There’s a need for disposal, but the fire department is firmly against us having the right to burn at all.”