City hall adds staff to help police Moncton's tall grass

Moncton is beefing up its bylaw enforcement staff to help police out-of-control lawns in the city. 

A report presented to a city council committee meeting Monday indicates a bylaw passed last year will generate about six months of full-time work, enough to add a bylaw enforcement position. 

"It's pretty labour-intensive," said Don MacLellan, the city's general manager of community safety services. 

The bylaw approved by city council in July requires keeping, weeds and other grasses under 20 centimetres on any land in the city except vacant properties. The rules apply to vacant land if the grass obstructs pedestrians or motorists or is otherwise deemed a safety hazard.

The city's 2019 budget includes money for an additional staff member. City staff had sought two more positions because of the work from other bylaws, such as regulating booting and complaints related to cannabis legalization. 

​Last year, the city hired a temporary employee to handle the work, MacLellan said.

"It bears out that it needs a lot of attention," he told reporters of the work created by the grass bylaw. He said it involves talking to the person who files a complaint and following up with the property owner to ensure compliance. 

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Violations could result in warnings or fines starting at $140 to a maximum of $2,100.

MacLellan said the fines issued likely wouldn't cover the cost of the new position. He said he believes the position pays about $45,000. 

 The number of fines issued by the city since the bylaw was approved wasn't immediately available. 

If the "offence" continues for more than one day, the fine can be multiplied by the number of days the grass remains uncut.

The city calculated it would see about 400 complaints per year based on data from similar-sized communities. 

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Mayor Dawn Arnold told reporters after the bylaw was approved that the goal isn't to crack down on those who forget to mow their lawn.

"We're talking about ongoing, long-term negligence," Arnold said.

Riverview and Dieppe have similar bylaws.

Meghan Cross, a spokesperson for Riverview, said the town had 23 complaints about tall grass last year, the first full year its bylaw was in place. She said in an email the town has always sent letters in response to complaints, "so the workload has not increased dramatically."

Now if the property owner doesn't act, it can issue a fine or or have the grass cut, which could add more work.

Julie Albert, a spokesperson for Dieppe, said the city issued five fines and 32 warnings last year. The city introduced its tall grass prohibition as part of another bylaw three years ago. 

The city's bylaw doesn't apply to vacant lots. Albert said no new staff have been added because of the bylaw. 

 Sackville considered a grass bylaw, but it did not receive enough support from councillors.