Council waging war on weeds with new fines for unsightly lawns
Residents will soon face tickets if they let weeds grow wild on their properties, after council approved landscaping regulations that toughen up enforcement measures.The proposal earned high praise from many around the council table on Monday.“If there was a gold medal for municipal policy development, this policy would get it,” said Ward 2 Coun. Bob Hawkins.Council endorsed bylaw amendments that will do two different things: Impose minimum landscaping requirements for homeowners, and give bylaw enforcement officers new tools to crack down on unsightly lawns.Until now, the Regina Community Standards Bylaw only covered tall grass. Now it will outlaw all overgrown vegetation, apart from gardens, that exceeds 15 cm in height. The city will also enforce the provincial Weed Control Act, which allows it to clear away nuisance weeds and charge the cost to the owner’s tax bill.The measures aim to crack down on a growing problem in some of Regina’s new neighbourhoods.In Ward 2 — which includes Harbour Landing — weed complaints have jumped from 69 in 2014 to 291 this year.City services executive director Kim Onrait said the city can now issue tickets and impose fines to enforce them. The voluntary payment amounts will be $100 for the first violation, $150 for second and $200 for third.“As we all know, ticketing gets the attention of whoever’s receiving the ticket,” said Onrait.Previously, the city could only issue orders to comply for out-ofcontrol lawn growth. If they went ignored, the city would have to prosecute. Ticketing is an effective middle road, said Onrait.“It was a little bit more of a lengthy process, the missing part was the ticketing,” he said.“It’s to the betterment of the community.”To wage its war on weeds, Onrait’s division is also asking for two new employees in bylaw enforcement, to be funded through the 2020 budget process.The new policy also responds to concerns that yards in brand new developments weren’t getting a lot of love from their owners. Some councillors, including Hawkins, had lamented that many sat without landscaping for years.Homeowners will have to complete landscaping on front and side yards that border a public street within two years of getting an occupancy permit. The city calls the standards “moderate.”They allow options for ornamental plants, shrubs or trees. Homeowners will also be able to choose from turf, artificial turf, aggregate or mulch — so long as it prevents instability and erosion and is approved by a development officer.Developers will have to show how they’re meeting those requirements for new properties, and will also be able to set stronger standards for homes in their subdivisions.“It still allows developers, home builders and owners the flexibility to be a bit creative in terms of what the landscaping actually looks like,” said Onrait.Mayor Michael Fougere supported the measure. He brushed aside concerns that the city was intruding on the rights of property owners to let their lawns grow as they see fit.“We’re not saying you can’t do that,” he said. “We’re saying, for those properties that are neglected, where there are weeds and other growth that happens, that it’s a blight on the community and a problem for the neighbours, that becomes an issue.“You can design your property however you like.”
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