Keep close tabs on property bylaw
Editorial Barrie Examiner November 13 2010
Property standards bylaws are a necessary evil in Ontario municipalities.
They endeavour to impose community standards on landowners, so their properties are neat, tidy and well-maintained, not to mention not an eyesore to neighbours.
But as municipalities grow, so must their bylaws.
Barrie’s property standards bylaw is being revised as it pertains to outdoor storage in the front and side yards of residential properties.
It’s a scenario that most city residents understand.
The neighbour with the car parked on the front lawn, or the boat on a trailer beside the house, the building materials piled under a window, etc. -it’s all part of a visual that people really don’t want to see.
It can also include firewood, patio furniture, children’s bikes and toys, basketball hoops, hockey nets, ladders, garden tools and other stuff stored in plain view of everybody, from the street.
And this stuff is seen.
The city receives 100 to 200 complaints a year -normally by an e-mail or telephone call – that deal with the stuff people leave in yards.
There’s also a very fair way of dealing with these complaints.
A city employee is sent to the address in question, to verify the complaint, within 10 business days. The door is knocked upon to speak with the owner, but if no one’s home a door tag is left. It gives the owner 24 hours to contact the city and correct the problem.
Usually, this is enough. The idea of bylaws isn’t to fine residents into submission. The idea is rather to lay out community standards and ask people to follow them, to a reasonable extent.
Pick up after your dog, don’t smoke in public places, feed the meter when parking your vehicle, return your library book on time, don’t litter in city parks, get a building permit for your new back deck, pay your property taxes, etc.
The city wants voluntary compliance to its bylaws, and for the most part gets it — partly because most bylaws are reasonable.
But the city can get tough, if need be.
If a property standards problem isn’t corrected within 24 hours, the result is a warning letter — this time with a $55 service fee. The landowner has one-to-two weeks to fix the problem.
Next is a $250 service fee , and if an order is issued that goes to $500. If the matter goes to court, a fine to a maximum of $100,000 can be awarded. But for a first offence, the fine is normally 10% of the maximum. This usually only happens with commercial or industrial properties, not residential ones.
While most people have a certain tolerance for their neighbours, there appears to be some interest in regulations — and with a little more teeth — requiring property owners to maintain their properties to an acceptable community standard.
This includes not only to safety standards, but to the eye as well.
The idea is not only to protect the quality of life in Barrie neighbourhoods, but property values as well.
If you’re thinking most of this stuff is self-evident, you’re right. People should know enough to look after their property.
And any changes to the property standards bylaw are unlikely to be drastic, unless they are to deal with extreme situations. But these changes are still worth kmContact your newly-elected city councillor to stay current.