The Grand Forks City Council made no changes to its engine idling bylaw, which came under scrutiny from the chambers on Monday, March 7.
Spurred by a strongly worded letter from Resident Jack Koochin and a request for no idling signs from Resident Muriel Neale, council deliberated the bylaw for approximately half an hour between its Committee of the Whole (COTW) and regular meetings.
By-Law Enforcement Officer David Bruce has spoken at length on the issue, repeatedly calling for more public education to discourage engine idling, while firmly stating that his office does not have the authority to enforce the regulations during the cold snap in February.
The Idling By-law (#1836) was passed by a 2007 council resolution limiting engine idling to three minutes while allowing a series of exemptions for emergency vehicles, parades and vehicles storing perishable goods, among others. The regulation does not apply to “vehicles that are idling if the outside temperature is below zero or above 30 degrees Celsius,” according to section 4(i).
Temperatures in February consistently hovered around zero degrees Celsius, Bruce said.
But Koochin demanded in a Feb. 8 letter published in the board’s agenda that the regulations be amended to “remove the 0-degree provision and include the 30-degree provision only for vehicles equipped with commercial freezers.”
The reason he gave was that his neighbor “has a noisy Ram diesel pickup that he heats up” for up to 40 minutes at a stretch, which he said was “ridiculous and totally unnecessary” and which he says , “pollutes damn”. of our neighborhood. »
Neale, in a separate letter, said she was concerned about engine idling near city schools, restaurant and grocery store parking lots. “No Idling” signs would probably do the trick, she wrote, because “education seems like the best bet.”
Responding to recent idling complaints received by the city, Coun. Chris Moslin asked the COTW if the staff had taken any action.
“When the temperature is below zero, there isn’t much action, quite frankly, that can be taken,” Bruce replied.
Highlighting the regulation’s very clear exemption for engine idling in cold temperatures, Bruce said, “We’re definitely not about to issue a ticket for that,” to which he added that if they were to impose such a fine, “I dare say, it would be disputed.
Brought before council at its regular meeting, Bruce said past education campaigns by the town and local elementary schools had worked well in discouraging people from feeding deer within town limits, which is also a violation of the regulations.
“I personally think we can do a much better job with the idling bylaw in terms of educating individuals,” Bruce told the council.
By-law enforcement is “complaint-driven,” said administrative manager Duncan Redfearn, to whom Bruce said he knows Koochin well.
“Over the past years, Mr. Koochin has had similar concerns with different neighbors. And I certainly spoke with these different neighbors at times.
Bruce said he sympathized with Koochin, “no doubt,” but added that to his knowledge, Koochin had never attempted to come to any resolution with his neighbors.
Seizing on the aspect of public education, Moslin said he was a council member when it passed the idling bylaw. The Council then partnered with the Boundary Air Quality Committee, which hired a young graduate student as an “idling ambassador” to give talks in schools about the harmful effects of engine exhaust.
Paraphrasing a constituent’s concerns about idling, Moslin poked fun at recent Freedom Convoy protests across the country.
“It all starts with men in trucks,” he said, sparking laughter in the room.
“At first, it was funny. But look at all the problems Canada just went through. Somehow we feel like we deserve the right to run our trucks indefinitely. It’s complacent. It’s wasteful,” Moslin explained.
When it came time to review Koochin’s proposed amendment, Redfearn told the board that “we contacted this person directly and said, ‘Hey, if you let us know when this happens, we’ll go down. We’ll take a look. If there is a breach of the rules, we will inform, organize and enforce. And the answer we got was, ‘No. You should just patrol here.
But Redfearn warned that proactive bylaw enforcement would likely require more resources from the board.
Moslin said he would not support a rule amendment, adding that he was in favor of public education.
“We are dealing here with human behavior. We try to convince people that for the sake of the environment, they should turn off their cars.
Concluding the discussion, Mayor Brian Taylor said, “I’m quite pleased with our response so far to Mr. Koochin, but I don’t see any motion coming out of it.
When no motion was presented, the board voted unanimously to receive Koochin’s letter, passing a second resolution to respond to Koochin.
Regulation 1836 carries a minimum penalty of $250, with a maximum fine of no more than $10,000. In practice, Bruce told the board that his office overwhelmingly prefers to talk to alleged rule breakers.
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