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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, September 26, 2022
Editorial: NOTL needs to go back to the drawing board with bylaws and enforcement
Editorial.
Editorial. Supplied

Our town has a sign problem — one that’s been hurting our small growers and farmers, as we documented in a story about White Orchard Farms last week.

But larger than the sign problem, seems to be an everlasting problem with bylaws and fatuous bylaw enforcement

Whether it’s the Town of NOTL having carelessly crafted bylaws, violating its own bylaws, or bylaw officers speeding around town, sometimes behaving aggressively when they put on the uniform, there seems to be a need for some real, swift change within our little community.

Last week a bylaw officer almost ticketed a truck in Chautauqua for pulling up to a home to quickly unload a set of bunk beds for two children.

The officer, with a sour, scolding look on her face, finally relented. But others in the neighbourhood haven’t been so lucky and have reported tickets for five-minute visits.

We’re sure there are better things bylaw officers could be doing instead of harassing residents.

Oddly enough last year during COVID, it was like pulling teeth to get bylaw officers to stop in and check on COVID infractions.

It makes it difficult to tell what our town’s priorities are sometimes. Deadly virus? Meh. Small sign promoting farm produce? Bring in the cavalry.

Are our town’s priorities really only to enforce the easy bylaws?

It’s unknown who really makes these decisions. But whomever decides the priorities needs to take a long, hard look at things. And the town’s administration needs to take a hard look at them, too.

It seems silly and unfair that so often one single complaint – often anonymous, ensuring an accused violator never knows their accuser – leads to the full power of the state being brought to bear on residents.

With the pickleball noise complaint we saw how one person can affect many others. Now we’re seeing it locally with signs being removed.

These petty actions from the town, paid for by public money, need to end.

In a letter to The Lake Report this week another farmer wrote a passionate plea to councillors asking them to reconsider signs that help farmers earn a living. We think that’s completely fair.

The people who grow our food deserve more respect than to be subject to an impractical bylaw that hurts their businesses.

Another problem with our bylaw enforcement is the idea of confidentiality for the complainant. It’s absurd and goes against the procedures of every other quasi-judicial body in the country.

Normally, if someone is accused of something, they are entitled to know their accusers.

Maybe people would think twice about registering petty complaints if their names were attached to them.

But the town has often been known to shy away from common sense.

The Town of NOTL needs to get its act together and change its bylaws so farmers can have unobtrusive signs to sell their products. And it needs to rethink its entire enforcement procedure.

editor@niagaranow.com