June 11, 2014

Council considers tough stance on graffiti

As published in The Erin Advocate

Property owners will have to clean up graffiti at their own expense if Town Council approves proposed revisions to the Property Standards Bylaw.

One of the new sections of the bylaw says: “All property including buildings, fences, and other objects shall be kept clean of objectionable markings, graffiti and other defacements at all times and shall be restored, resurfaced and coordinated to the exterior finish of the object.”

Consistent with all aspects of the bylaw, this measure is intended to ensure that the condition of a property does not cause harm to the community – especially the appearance of the downtown shopping and tourist area.

Mayor Lou Maieron said forcing property owners to spend money on a clean-up could be controversial, since they are the victims of a crime.

Councillor Barb Tocher said if someone wanted to paint a mural on the exterior of their own building, the Town could be in the difficult position of having to decide whether it was an acceptable display of art.

The full text of the proposed bylaw is available at www.erin.ca, in the June 3 council agenda, pages 21-54. Discussion of details and passage of the bylaw could happen at the council meeting on July 22.

The bylaw operates with the backing of provincial laws, including the Building Code and the Fire Code, and is enforced by the Town’s Property Standards Officer. It covers a wide range of issues about what is expected of the public in the care and maintenance of their properties.

It includes provision for a Property Standards Committee that would hear and rule on appeals from property owners who may disagree with an Order to Comply. Further court appeals are also possible. An individual convicted of not complying with a final, binding order could be fined up to $50,000 on first offence, and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences. The amounts are doubled for corporations.

The bylaw covers the exterior and interior of buildings, including standards for cleanliness, room layout, the condition of walls, floors, stairs, doors, windows, heating, air conditioning, electrical, ventilation, lighting, plumbing, water and sewage.

Yards “shall be kept clean and free of litter, rubbish, waste, salvage, refuse, decaying, or damaged trees, branches and limbs, animal excrement, excessive growth, objects or conditions that might create a health, fire, accident hazard or unsightly condition.”

Grass and weeds must be kept shorter than eight inches. Living grass or other ground cover is required to prevent erosion “and so as to be in harmony with the neighbouring environment.” Garbage receptacles must have tight fitting lids. Vehicles may not be parked on the lawn.

Machinery and building materials cannot be stored outdoors unless needed for immediate use. Firewood is not to be stacked in front or exterior side yards “unless in the opinion of the Officer it does not have an adverse visual impact on the neighbourhood”.

Updates have been recommended by staff after reviewing property bylaws in other towns. Some are clarifications about existing rules, but there are several new sections in addition to the graffiti provisions.

The surfaces of walkways and driveways are to be “non-organic ground cover”, with no ponding of storm water, no unsightly appearance, free of garbage, safe to use and with no nuisance to other property.

Fences, retaining walls and sheds need to be appropriately maintained with paint, preservative other weather-resistant material, unless they are designed to be enhanced by the lack of such treatment.

Outdoor lighting should be of a low-intensity nature, directed to minimize glare and undue intrusion of light on nearby homes and streets.