New clean yards bylaw comes to Centre Wellington

ELORA – Centre Wellington has approved a new clean yards bylaw.

The new bylaw aims to maintain private property in a clean, clear and tidy manner, using an efficient and cost effective method.

At the Nov. 18 committee of the whole meeting, municipal bylaw enforcement officer Satnam Chauhan said bylaw enforcement as a whole has been receiving more and more complaints every year.

“We’re continuously hitting large amounts of files and complaints every month so this will help expedite some of those minor matters,” he said.

Before the clean yards bylaw, exterior yard matters were dealt with through the property standards bylaw.

“The legal requirement under the property standards bylaw does not address minor exterior yard maintenance matters in a timely fashion,” Chauhan said.

Staff would need to give the occupant a “door-knocker” pamphlet and time to bring their property to order.

“With that property standards order we are required to provide a minimum of 19 days before we can even proceed with any further enforcement,” Chauhan said.

Within 14 days the occupant can appeal the order meaning compliance for minor maintenance matters can span months.

Alternatively under the new complaint-based clean yards bylaw staff can respond to complaints regarding waste, debris, composters, infestations, dead/dying trees, noxious weeds, excessive grass and weed growth, etc. – anything to do with minor yard maintenance matters – in a more timely fashion. Some matters, like naturalized gardens, are at the discretion of the bylaw officer.

However, the township cannot remove any personal belongs including vehicles, machinery, parts and other items that may have monetary value. Complaints about items fulfilling those criteria will still be address under the property standards bylaw.

In other words, nothing of perceived value is included under the clean yards bylaw.

Under the new bylaw officers will offer a door-knocker information pamphlet, educate the resident as to why they are out of compliance and give them an appropriate amount of time to bring their property to the municipal standard.

The “township philosophy is always compliance first, and education,” Chauhan said.

However, the time frame is undefined. Chauhan said the minimum time to reach compliance is based on the severity of the situation and the property owner can be included in the discussion.

“They fail to comply then we’d come back after a couple days, most likely minimum two to three days and then inspect again and if it’s still a violation issue a clean yards order,” Chauhan said. “That order would have … at the lowest three days to comply and if they fail to comply then we’d be able to proceed with cleanup through township … staff.”

The occupant would be responsible for the cost and if they fail to pay, the fees would be included on their municipal tax bill.

Council was concerned the municipality is removing the home owner’s ability to appeal a decision.

“There is no appeals process under the clean yards bylaw,” Chauhan said. “We’re dealing with minor matters, so nothing of perceived value.”

Residents will be given an opportunity to comply with the order before the township comes and does the work.

“So you’re saying that basically this whole thing is to expedite cases that you consider minor but the problem I have with that is that the whole appeal process is the property rights of a person to do that,” councillor Stephen Kitras said.

“So we’re presenting that we want to waive those and then if this passes we can do work and then put it on their taxes.”

Chauhan confirmed that was the case.

In an effort to clarify the new bylaw clerk Kerri O’Kane explained that even under the property standards bylaw the resident cannot appeal the order.

“You can appeal the time period, you can appeal to have modifications to it but it’s not an in or out, you can’t appeal getting the order,” she explained. “You can appeal certain aspects of that order.

“The order stands and the committee determines whether that order is reasonable, whether you need more time to rectify it, but it’s not whether it should have been laid or not.”

Councillor Kirk McElwain asked whether Grand River Conservation Authority-owned properties would be covered under the new bylaw.

“I’m referring to two or three properties for instance in Inverhaugh that the GRCA owns in a residential area and they threaten to let it go natural so it’s going to impact the neighbours big time,” McElwain said.

Chauhan said the township can request compliance but ultimately the GRCA is a higher power than the municipality and can choose to comply or not.

The new clean yards bylaw was approved with only councillor Stephen Kitras in opposition.