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Saturday, November 26, 2022
Tougher clean yard bylaw needed, town told

Niagara-on-the-Lake is considering changes to its clean yard bylaw and that doesn’t sit well with one town resident.

Darren Harle, who owns a one-acre parcel of land on Line 6, says some of the amendments will make the bylaw less restrictive and that means people won’t have to maintain their yards to the same degree as is required now.

“The proposed amendment to the clean yard bylaw is not a solution,” he told councillors at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday night.

“It only lessens responsibility to large area landowners and alleviates enforcement efforts by employees.”

The town sometimes receives complaints from rural residential property owners about long grass and weeds on the neighbouring agricultural lands, a staff report said. 

The current bylaw applies to both rural and urban areas of NOTL and it requires grass, weeds and undergrowth to be maintained at a maximum height of 20 centimetres or eight inches.

In order to “allow farmers to carry on normal farm practices and to allow residents an opportunity to enjoy the use of their property,” town staff suggested a 10-metre buffer zone between agricultural land and abutting residential properties.

The bylaw also requires every owner, lessee or occupant of land to keep their backyards clean from “grass or weeds over 20 centimetres in height, brush, undergrowth and noxious weeds as defined by Weed Control Act.”

Harle said the new proposal would exclude grass and non-noxious weeds, forcing owners to only control “overgrown brush, undergrowth and noxious weeds.”  That isn’t beneficial to residents, he said.

At Coun. Clare Cameron’s suggestion, council voted to send Harle’s comments, along with the proposed changes, to the town’s agricultural committee for consideration before coming back to council.

Harle, who attended the meeting with his wife Kendra, said a 30-acre property next to theirs hasn’t been maintained and is overgrown with weeds. 

“Because of the adjacent land being unmaintained, we have spent considerable amounts of money on maintenance, weed control, and tick and rodent deterrence,” he told councillors.

He also questioned why maintaining a whole parcel of land isn’t considered reasonable by owners of the agricultural land.

“If you own a car, you have an obligation to keep it in safe operating condition. If you own a commercial motor vehicle such as a tractor-trailer, one is not exempt from keeping it safe just because it’s larger,” said Harle. “With ownership comes responsibility.”

Harle also mentioned safety and health concerns as the family has been dealing with coughing, sneezing and sleeplessness due to allergies. The unmaintained yard also attracts ticks and coyotes, he said, adding that dry weeds can also pose a fire hazard.

He suggested a buffer zone of 30 to 50 metres would be more effective and reasonable considering his situation.

Coun. Gary Burroughs initially motioned to change the width of the buffer between agricultural and abutting residential properties to 15 metres from 10 metres. He later withdrew the motion.