Town of Sidney sets sights on cleaning up yard messes

Request wants Sidney to enforce messy yard bylaw without neighbour complaint.

Residents of Sidney could find it easier in 2016 to report their neighbours’ messy yards.

The municipality will look into ways to make it easier and less intimidating for people to complain about properties that are unkempt or downright dishevelled.

Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey says the Town will revisit its unsightly premises bylaw, adopted in 2008 and currently being reviewed by staff. The bylaw sets out prohibitions to prevent property owners from letting their yards fall below neighbourhood standards — basically a set of regulations to ensure people don’t let their yards go to pot. The bylaw is enforced based on complaints by residents.

Lougher-Goodey said he feels the bylaw needs to be able to accommodate complaints from other sources, so people don’t feel threatened or worried about making such a complaint.

“We should revisit the policy … so that the onus is not just on the neighbours to report,” said Lougher-Goodey.

He added he wants to Town itself to be able to enforce its own bylaw.

Coun. Peter Wainwright said the Town doesn’t need this.

“Anyone, not just neighbours, can complain,” he explained. “Nothing in the policy requires that complaints only come from neighbours.”

Coun. Tim Chad said he doesn’t like the idea of the Town becoming too aggressive in this area.

“Everyone in this small town is a neighbour,” Chad said. “We don’t need to hire any stormtroopers.”

Lougher-Goodey said he thinks there should be less pressure on people who do complain and that the bylaw should be changed to allow Town staff to be able to enforce it directly.

The penalty for not complying with Sidney’s unsightly premises bylaw is a fine of between $100 and $10,000. The bylaw also gives the Town the right, should a property owner fail to comply, to enter a yard, clean it up and bill the owner. If that is not paid by Dec. 31 of any year, the bill will be added to their municipal tax bill.

Council has asked staff to consider enforcement options.