Coun­cil wag­ing war on weeds with new fines for un­sightly lawns

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ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY

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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