14th April 2024

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City council to discuss yard maintenance by-law

2 min read

The naturalized front yard that Brendon Samuels has cultivated in place of a grass lawn has become ground zero in a political fight at city hall.

At issue— the by-law that governs how front yards are supposed to be maintained in London, Ont.

Samuels’ yard contains a collection of grasses, wild flowers, native plants, and trees.

“It’s pretty polarizing,” he admitted. “I have some neighbours who are really fond of it. I get a lot of compliments, but I’ve also had garbage thrown at me, I have people drive by and heckle me. I had a complaint brought against my yard.”

In May, a municipal law enforcement officer delivered a citation that demanded, “Clear all grass and weeds exceeding eight inches.”

The order was eventually dropped, and Samuels’ naturalized lawn was spared.

However, the situation prompted him to dig deeper into the Yard and Lot Maintenance By-law.

“There are some inconsistencies within the by-law that require a property owner to seek an exemption to the by-law in order to naturalize,” he explained.

Samuels believes the by-law’s definitions of weeds, grasses, and buffer area need greater clarity to reflect modern perspectives on the environment and biodiversity.

“The main problem with the by-law is there’s a lot of ambiguity in it,” agreed Councillor Sam Trosow.

On Tuesday, Trosow called for a public meeting and comprehensive review of the by-law during a meeting of the Civic Works Committee (CWC).

“Particularly, to look at some of the definitions and to make it clearer to people what they can and can’t do with their yard,” he added.

Trosow’s motion failed 2-3, but the committee did recommend producing an information brochure that can be given to homeowners.

“If we aren’t sure what you can and can’t do, the brochure is only going to go so far,” Trosow told CTV News.

According to a staff report presented at the CWC meeting, “The municipal purpose of the Yard and Lot Maintenance By-law is to address public nuisances such as refuse and debris including the spread of vermin.”

So far this year, 2,651 complaints have been received about yard maintenance.

Only three of the complaints were against naturalized or indigenous gardens— and they did not result in enforcement.

City staff said the by-law is by far the most active in terms of officer workload and community concern.

It was last reviewed in October 2020.

Samuels believes the by-law should focus on safety issues like visibility for drivers, standing water, and allergens.

Aesthetics should be left out.

He hopes Londoners will contact their city councillor before the August 29 council meeting, “There’s a divide in the community and the by-law is being weaponized on the wrong side of the issue.”


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