NORTH PERTH – A special council meeting held on March 29 allowed North Perth municipal staff an opportunity to update council on general housekeeping which is being conducted on a variety of bylaws dealing with matters such as regulations for All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), bylaw enforcement policies, procedures and public education, an updated draft of the noise bylaw and dog control.
The discussion of local ATV regulations was in response to changes the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) enacted on Jan. 1 in the way the province manages how off-road vehicles are allowed on-road in some municipalities.
In 2019, the Ministry of Transportation made two legislative amendments to the Highway Traffic Act to improve the experience of off-road vehicle riding in the province. Municipalities must now create a bylaw designating restrictions on the use of off-road vehicles.
The Municipality of North Perth does not have a bylaw regulating off-road vehicles on municipal roadways. Staff, along with OPP Sergeant Manny Coelho, have discussed the need for council to discuss the adoption of a bylaw.
After a robust discussion, it was decided council will take steps towards establishing a bylaw to govern the use of ATVs and other off-road vehicles within the municipality.
“We’ve had ample questions asked and I think maybe some will come up in the aftermath of this meeting,” said Mayor Todd Kasenberg. “I think we should give this a little bit of space and time and perhaps consult with the public through yoursayNorthPerth.ca.”
During the bylaw policies and procedures discussion, Nicole Alexander, North Perth bylaw enforcement officer, pointed out they have to take into account that financial abilities and circumstance differ from resident to resident.
“This does not mean we will not enforce a violation but it can come down to our discretion on a timeframe or a form of enforcement,” she said. “For example, if someone has fallen under a financial hardship, given even a circumstance like COVID, we as bylaw officers can use our discretion to work with a person to ensure no further hardships are forced on them because of us.”
Kasenberg raised concerns about the report phase of the process to the complainant.
“The complainant needs to know that their complaint has either been perceived as… frivolous or that they were investigated and there is some action that’s been taken,” he said. “I don’t think the details necessarily need to be given but the complainant needs to know we have responded.”
He said that in the absence of letting residents know there has been action, there are concerns that the municipality is not doing its part in enforcing bylaws.
The definition of ‘frivolous’ in the policy also caused concern for Kasenberg.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “It puts a lot of discretion in your hands to make that determination. I think that probably a policy of this nature requires a second-level review so that if you are going to dispatch something as frivolous or vexatious another person needs to see it.”
Coun. Allan Rothwell asked whether it would be possible for council to see reports on the volume of complaints which bylaw enforcement has to deal with.
Alexander said that report would be possible because the bylaw department has a new reporting system that has allowed more effective tracking of instances when it comes to compliance and how things have been resolved.
Next up for discussion was a draft containing some amendments to the noise bylaw.
One addition in this draft is a persistent barking definition with a timeframe indicator.
“Before it was a little more unrealistic – we know dogs are going to have a bark or two at a squirrel but now we have that persistent barking and we can have a little bit more investigative time frames for it,” said Alexander.
She said one of the other added sections was noise from ATVs and off-road vehicles which will be in line with the ATV bylaw council discussed earlier in the meeting when it is brought into effect.
“We removed the firearm noise as this can cause issues around enforcement,” said Alexander. “If these calls were to be received they will be directed to OPP as it is their matter versus a noise issue.”
Two extensions of noise allowance have been included in the draft of the bylaw. The first being electronic devices such as listening to music would be allowed between 7 a.m. (9 a.m. on Sundays) and 9 p.m.
“For example, if someone wanted to have a late dinner outside on a barbecue while enjoying their music personally we feel it doesn’t need to be restricted to the old-time which was 7 p.m.,” said Alexander.
The other suggested extension is allowing the operation of domestic tools, other than snow removal, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“A lawnmower being used due to a homeowner not being able to get home until 7:30 should not have to worry about a noise complaint because they are taking care of their property,” she said.
Coun. Matt Richardson suggested operations of domestic tools could be allowed until 9 p.m.
The final addition to the noise bylaw would be the addition of fines, most of which are proposed to be $100 except for racing a motor vehicle which would be $200.
Clerk Pat Berfelz pointed out that the purchase of dog tags in the municipality has changed.
“This year we started a new process where owners receive a tag without the actual year on it,” she said. “We felt that producing a new tag every year has been a waste.”
She said owners will now be invoiced annually and if their dog loses the tag there will be an opportunity to purchase a replacement for a nominal fee.
“This dog tag system has been very beneficial,” said Berfelz. “We now have all the contact information of the dogs registered with the municipality and that certainly does make it easier for us to find the dog owners.”
Unfortunately due to the pandemic, municipal staff has not been able to meet or do training with the Humane Society, the new partner for the municipality in dog control.
“To date, we have only a few dogs requiring the pound services and one investigation into dog abuse,” said Berfelz. “As I said, as soon as it’s safe to do so the applicable North Perth staff will be trained by the Humane Society in dealing with aggressive dogs… things have changed but we feel very confident we are meeting the demands of the community regarding dog control.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner