TBM council on the fence about 189-year-old provincial act
A plan to opt out of the Line Fences Act has divided The Blue Mountains council.
At its committee of the whole meeting on April 3, council received a staff report recommending that the town opt out of the provincial Line Fences Act. Clerk Corrina Giles explained that in the past 15 years, the town had only had five fence viewings.
The Line Fences Act is one of the oldest pieces of legislation in Ontario, predating Confederation, as it was first implemented in 1834. The act helps adjudicate disputes between neighbours over the location of fences between two properties.
Under the act, the municipality appoints fence viewers who are responsible for assisting with the settling of disputes between neighbours over the placement of fences, at the request of one of the property owners. The fences in question would have to be placed directly on the property line and the property line cannot be in dispute.
Giles explained that the town has the option to opt out of the act should it choose to do so. The clerk said the town has a fence bylaw that governs the construction of fences between properties.
“Anything that is a fence would have to be in compliance with the fence bylaw,” she said.
Staff recommended the town opt-out as the process was seldom used anymore. Going forward, disputes between neighbours would be settled by the courts.
In the past, at the beginning of each term of council line fence viewers would be appointed by the town. However, for this term, council did not direct staff to have fence viewing services continue as a committee of council.
The issue divided council and was narrowly approved in committee of the whole by a 4-2 vote. Councillors June Porter and Alex Maxwell voted against, while Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon was absent. It will return for final approval at council’s meeting on April 24.
Porter said she was concerned with opting out of the act, without the town reviewing and updating its fence bylaw.
“The fence bylaw is quite old,” she said, adding that the bylaw was “unsophisticated.”
Porter raised the possibility of a property owner returning home one day to find a fence had been constructed by their neighbour without them having knowledge ahead of time.
Staff explained that such a scenario would be best addressed by a review of the town’s fence bylaw.
“A property owner could place a fence on their own property and they would not have to consult (their neighbour),” said Giles. “Opting out of the Line Fence Act would not solve the problem Coun. Porter has identified.”
Director of Legal Services Will Thomson said the Line Fences Act would have no impact on a fence built entirely on a property owner’s side of the property line. He said the act would still apply if the fence was built on the property line.
“(The town) just wouldn’t have a fence viewer to arbitrate,” he said.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca