Highlands East council narrowly passed a new clean and clear bylaw July 23 which aims to help address messy properties and clarify waste standards.

The new bylaw is an update to one from 2004. It changes the definitions of what refuse is disallowed on yards. The municipality can also now dish out penalties without going through the court systems by using notices.

In a May staff report, bylaw enforcement officer Wayne Galloway said the bylaw has been worked on since September 2018 due to issues enforcing the old one.

“After several attempts to work within the confines of the bylaw, it was decided that it would be better to draft an entirely new bylaw,” Galloway said. “There have been several complaints in regards to various properties within the municipality not conforming to the Clean and Clear bylaw.”

The new bylaw allows the municipality to clean up a property itself, should a notice not be adhered to. In that case, any costs associated can be added to tax rolls, Galloway said. The new bylaw also narrows the definitions of waste disallowed on property. Galloway said the 2004 bylaw’s definitions were so broad, that every property could be found in violation.

But the bylaw did not pass cleanly. In a recorded vote, Deputy mayor Cec Ryall and Coun. Cam McKenzie voted against it, while Mayor Dave Burton, Coun. Ruth Strong and Coun. Suzanne Partridge voted in favour.

The bylaw forbids the presence of any refuse in any yards, which includes garbage, construction materials, appliances, furniture, derelict vehicles and discarded boats. Weeds and grass are also to be limited to 20 cm and under, but exceptions are made for naturalized areas like shorelines and agricultural.

McKenzie said he voted against due to a clause on road allowances. The bylaw makes an exception for road allowances, meaning grass on them can be longer than 20 cm.

McKenzie referred to Cardiff and Bicroft Heights. He said road allowances there have been maintained by residents for more than 50 years and it’s become “next to impossible to tell where the road allowance ends and the actual privately-owned lawn begins.

“This new bylaw states that these road allowances will no longer need to be maintained by anyone,” McKenzie said in a prepared statement at council. “The impact on our small community could change its appearance greatly. The front half of the properties could be allowed to turn into hay fields and weed patches.”

Violators of the bylaw also face potential fines up to $5,000, which remains unchanged from the 2004 version.

The full text of the new bylaw is available through the July 23 council agenda at haliburton.civicweb.net.

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