Looking Forward: Changing Rules Around Your Yard

by Markus O'Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff

If you're living in a single family home, yard work is likely part of your regular warm-weather routine. If it is, the City is changing rules that may impact you or your neighbours. Here's what you need to know before these new rules go to Council next week.

First, the City is proposing delaying the start of spring yard waste collections starting in 2022 by eliminating March collections. The change has been suggested in support of the City's policies on promoting bio-diversity and protecting pollinators.

Native insect pollinators, including butterflies and bumblebees, use dead leaves and other ground cover for spring nesting. Encouraging residents to delay clearing these leaves until the beginning of April will provide some support to these populations which are in distress.

Starting in 2023, your yard waste will only be collected in kraft paper bags. Yard waste is currently accepted in rigid plastic containers that when heavily loaded, pose ergonomic and safety concerns for workers when they have to bend low to the ground. City staff have asked to end this practice.

The City piloted a standardized City plastic bin for yard waste collection, but found during the pilot that a single bin usually needed to be supplemented with kraft paper bags anyway. The bins were not helpful to residents who participated in the program and have not been recommended to move forward.

Also changing will be what can be grown in a yard. The City controls height limits for grass, weeds or other types of vegetation. Residents wishing to create a natural garden, with other type of plants or native pollinators have historically needed to go through a special application process. To promote bio-diversity, his process will now be removed.

The City will amend the Grass and Weeds bylaw to specify that any kind of "turfgrass," including any type of vegetation that when mowed creates a dense uniform turf, must be kept below 20 cm. Other types of plants will now be permitted in place of grass, so long as they are not on a shorter list of prohibited species, including problematic plants like poison ivy, ragweed, dog strangling vine etc.

There remain a high number of properties in the area where yards are not properly maintained. At the moment, the City will enforce the Grass and Weeds bylaw only on a complaints driven basis. If you are concerned about a local property where grass and weeds exceed 20 cm, you can call them in to 311, or send a note to our office to ensure bylaw enforcement. The process can take several weeks to issue a notice, and allow owners a chance to comply, but eventually the City can come in and cut the grass, placing costs on the owner's tax bill.

John will also be moving a motion during the Council discussion asking staff to implement a system requiring automatic review from bylaw officers when properties have been the subject of multiple past complaints. We hope this might help reduce the frustration from neighbours calling in properties on an annual basis.