The Hypocrisy of the By-Law World by Tom Black

Published December 1, 2013
Tom Black

Tom Black

Since the time when modern mankind decided to build permanent dwellings in close proximity to his neighbours, as in cities or towns, we have continually been devising rules by which we interact. Obviously we need some planning and structure or there would be chaos with houses popping up where roads should have been. But too much of a good thing is often a bad thing and that is the state of affairs today with by-laws being created with increased frequency in an attempt to control every facet of life for the citizens.

Now all levels of government create laws and by-laws that they feel their constituents are demanding, to deal with situations that citizens perceive as important for society at large. This system works great when the perceived problem is large, obvious and pretty much unanimously agreed upon, but it starts to come off the rails when governments become subservient to special interest groups that have a narrow agenda and decide to manipulate this open concept of government that we are so proud of in this country. Groups like the Sierra Club, the Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and PETA all use their high profile and their large bank accounts to push aside the will of people in general and directly lobby politicians who with no organized lobby from the other side, tend to react in favour of the squeaky wheel.

Once a law or by-law is passed, the regulations must be written to interpret the essence of that legislation. Now it is time to hire more enforcement staff to make sure that the new laws are obeyed. Obviously the enforcement personnel are screened to be sympathetic to the theme of the law. For instance, if you were looking for a person to enforce the tree-cutting by-law, it is probably not going to be the guy who just set his chainsaw down after working in the pulpwood industry, who gets the job.

Well the city of Ottawa ended up with proof of how fanaticism can cloud the vision of otherwise smart people. Back in 2010 a homeowner asked the city to remove a large silver maple on city property but close to the house of this citizen. It seems that the tree needed more room and decided to move the house foundation to get it. Well city staff came back with a definite “NO” to the removal, leaving the landowner with no choice but to go to court, which he did. He WON and it cost the city $140,000 in Superior Court. Five other homeowners took the city to court that year, and won, for a total cost of $855,000 to the city, for six trees. During that same time frame, the city planted about 11,000 trees. Now you would think, that that would push the common sense button, but no, city staff pushed by external hired lawyers, prepared to draw up an appeal. Fortunately, city council got wind of it and squashed the appeal and ordered a review of the by-law.

It is very obvious that it is impossible to legislate common sense especially when dealing with zealots that are picked for a particular agenda but governments at all levels, need to take a close look at the legislation that they have already passed and eliminate at least half of it because the cost spin off of every regulation is staggering when you consider the man hours of staff, the court costs and the restriction on production of the individual landowner who carries the weight with their taxes and their loss of rights and freedoms.

5 Responses to “The Hypocrisy of the By-Law World by Tom Black”

  1. Joseph Soucy December 2, 2013

    Speaking of sensibilities being offended,the town of Petawawa, Ont. has several years ago passed a by-law banning portable garages. It would appear that council passed this by-law because of the new influx of people with the expansion of CFB Petawawa. Those of us who have lived here for over 40 yrs. and paid our taxes all those years have not being considered. But the sensibilities of the new comers are offended by the perceived eye sore of a temporary garage being erected in the fall and removed in the spring. So where is the consideration and compensation for the money spent for my portable garage?

  2. Richard Larose December 2, 2013

    I recently applied for a permit to construct a 10 by 8 sunroom on the rear of a clients property. the neighbor to the right has a 6M setback requirement, my client 8′ away has an 8M setback requirement, figure that one out?

    any how we apply for a minor variance in the city of Kingston, this is just a few dollars under $2000.00, 10% of the cost of the new sunroom.

    Should there not be a simpler, less costly way of minor variances in any municipality.

    By the way the municipalities are all different , Belleville is $750.00 and Prince Edward county is $950.00 .

    They all use the same process, a drawing, and application, circulation to a few dozen neighbors at most and a meeting.

    All of which our tax dollars are already paying for.

  3. Grace Joubarne December 1, 2013

    In Belleville in May 2011, an old woman with nothing better to do than be an ‘elite’, decided to ask her friends on Council to pass a by-law prohibiting property owners from parking on their own front yards. Why you ask? Her neighbor across the street from her home parked on his front yard and it offended her sensibilities, for she truly found it unsightly to see cars on a front yard! And so they passed the by-law. Now, after all that the by-law didn’t affect her neighbor since they are grandfathered.

    Since Belleville is an old town, with lots of old money running things in a way that tries to drive non-elites out of town as fast as possible, this ended up affecting everyone who has a house set well back on the property. This would be affecting a great proportion of properties in the City of Belleville, including mine. Not only are the affected properties stuck with houses set well back that result in small back yards, but now if they have to use their back yards for parking, they will have no privacy whatever to sunbath or enjoy activities normally undertaken in back yards because they will have to move to the front yard. In my case, it is a real dangerous task to access my back yard in the winter, as the driveway runs uphill.

    So this council clearly violates property rights by passing by-laws that affect private property in very restrictive ways, but it also clearly discriminates against older properties where there is no parking space but on front yards. Apparently if you build a new house with a garage at the front of the house and parking in the driveway at the front of the garage and house, the by-law doesn’t apply. Talk about discrimination.

    I plan to fight this, but what really disgusts me is that my taxes will be paying for the City lawyer to enrich himself further…

  4. Roy Sherrer December 1, 2013

    Is there any hope in hell for the future of our kids and grandkids with laws being passed like this one. Where is our freedom?

  5. jeff banks December 1, 2013

    Well try this one on for size .Rideau Lakes township will be passing a bylaw regulating the size of play structures.Yes those one you buy or decide to build yourself.The max size will be 107 sq feet.Anything over requires a minor variance and a building permit.A trampoline for instance. That means all equipment will be subjected to the Ontario building code,if over 107 sq feet.And the cost of a minor variance $1000.The cost of no exercise for our children priceless.This is no joke as I sit on this council!!!

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