Odour bylaw wafts its way through approval process

Regulations to ban commercial and industrial business owners from discharging or emitting offensive odours

City council is moving forward with bylaw amendments that, if approved, will crackdown on nuisance odours.

Council, at last week’s meeting, gave first and second reading to regulations that seek to ban commercial and industrial business owners from discharging or emitting offensive odours, as determined by the city bylaw officer.

The move was prompted by a homeowner’s complaint in April concerning the deep fryer exhaust odours emanating from a restaurant on the Island Highway. City Clerk Peter Wipper said in a report to council last month that fumes from the restaurant are vented through a flue at the back of the building which is at a similar height to the complainant’s outdoor patio roughly 30 feet away.

Coun. Larry Samson said at last week’s council meeting that he could sympathize with what the homeowners were going through.

“I do support the motion. It is our basic right to enjoy our home and home includes the yards and everything else,” said Samson, adding that the city needs to be proactive in heading off conflict before it happens, particularly in light of the city’s push to bring residential into the downtown core. “As we develop downtown and we’re trying to bring in commercial as well as residential, I think it’s important we have clear guidelines on the commercial component which is the restaurants; that they do have the onus on them to control the odour.”

Under the bylaw amendments council is considering, nuisance odour deemed unlawful would include any odour in the air that is “harmful, poisonous, disgusting, repulsive, very unpleasant, offensive or interferes with the use or enjoyment of property, endangers personal health or safety, or is offensive to the senses and causes inconvenience or annoyance to a person with a normal sense of smell.”

The bylaw would not apply to permitted combustion such as wood stoves and vehicle emissions. Wipper said that in the event a business was found to be out of compliance with the bylaw, the owner would be required to hire an independent odour specialist to recommend mitigation measures.

Mayor Andy Adams questioned, however, whether it was necessary to go so far as to require a business owner to hire a professional engineer licensed in odour control, as is laid out in the bylaw. Adams said engineers certified in HVACs, and other infiltration systems are “more than adequate to provide services and meet the majority of conditions we’re likely to be presented with.”

But Coun. Marlene Wright said she didn’t feel comfortable altering the original wording in the bylaw.

“I feel we’re playing with words here and that can be very dangerous,” Wright said. “This is a very serious matter and I know other municipalities have had problems with this kind of issue so I think we need to do our due diligence and be as careful as we can when we set a bylaw.”

Coun. Ron Kerr added that he “would hate” for the city to be challenged if the designation was loosened, and he urged council to get moving on the bylaw.

“It’s pleasant to debate this issue in chambers but it’s not pleasant to be held hostage in your own home by odour like these residents are, so let’s move ahead with this bylaw,” Kerr said.

In the end, council approved first and second reading of the bylaw, with Adams opposed. If the bylaw – which does not require a public hearing to pass – is approved, city staff will identify areas in the city where the potential for conflict with respect to nuisance odour exists and zone them appropriately.