District reconsiders lawn cutting bylaw

Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood received permission from his council to revisit the unsightly premises bylaw.

Maybe the grass doesn’t need to be cut on the other side of the fence.

At a Sept. 13 meeting, Mayor Hank Bood asked for, and received, permission from his council to revisit the addition of tall grass and/or weeds to the District of Port Hardy’s unsightly premises bylaw.

After receiving negative feedback from some residents, Bood decided to present “a notice of reconsideration” of the bylaw.

Council had previously given two readings of the revised unsightly premises bylaw which included that grass or weeds must be under 20 centimetres tall and that no dead landscaping is allowed.

“The general tone of these conversations (is that the new bylaw) is intrusive and controlling,” said Bood.

Councillor Rick Marcotte disagreed. “I view this as another tool in the toolbox that can be used if we need to use it,” said Marcotte.

Councillor Jessie Hemphill, who previously voted against the amendment, voiced her opposition again. Hemphill said there are instances where people may be ill, or away, and unable to mow their yards.

“What happens in those cases,” she said, adding that “the act of mowing lawns is bad for the environment. “It’s overly controlling and unenforceable,” she said. “I agree with Jessie,” said Councillor Fred Robertson.

“We’re crossing a line into sort of trying to say this is what council believes should be done with your lawn. We’re becoming a bit too intrusive with this,” Robertson said.

The idea that the bylaw would be enforced on people who are sick or handicapped “is completely silly,” said Marcotte, adding that no one will be going around measuring the length of grass.

“It’s a tool. A tool of last resort to make yards presentable,” said Marcotte. Bood said many people live in smaller communities “because there aren’t a zillion rules.”

Part of the issue, said Councillor Pat Corbett-Labatt, is that some of the unsightly grass is on properties that have absentee owners, so there is no opportunity to discuss things with neighbours.

Councillor Dennis Dugas said tall grass and weeds is an issue in some areas and the majority of the neighbouring homeowners “don’t like it. Most people like to have at least their front yards up to the standards of the neighbourhood that they’re in.”

“I’m in favour of leaving it,” Dugas said.

“Where does it end,” asked Robertson, wondering if council will next tell people what colours to paint their home, what sort of roofing they are required to have. “There is a bit of a slippery slope around it,” he said.

Corbett-Labatt suggested the proposed changes go back to the Operational Services Committee “to discuss it further.

Her motion was approved.