Whitehorse officials are starting to crack down on residents who have destroyed public land abutting their properties.
While most citizens don’t know it, many Whitehorse lots have land at the front of the property, just before the road, that is public.
The traffic bylaw says any parking on these “boulevards” is an offence and the maintenance bylaw says any driving on, changing or damaging them is prohibited, even though property owners are responsible for the land’s upkeep.
After hearing safety concerns (the vehicles block lines of sight) and complaints from cranky neighbours, officials have spent the last few weeks driving around Riverdale and Copper Ridge taking photos of serious infractions. More than 130 were found in these two neighbourhoods alone.
These include numerous cases of RVs and boats being stored on this public space, sometimes inside accessory structures, like car-ports. There are multiple cases where shrubbery and grasses are overgrown. Most common is the use of these boulevards as parking spaces. In one case the city is investigating, the ground has been torn up and prepared for paving.
Permission can be obtained from city engineers to do these sorts of changes, but people need to know this is not their land, says bylaw services manager Dave Pruden.
“A lot of people don’t know these bylaws exist, so if we’re going to endeavor in enforcing this in the future, we have to educate,” says Pruden.
When most people are aware of the rules, they follow them, so it’s only fair to give them some time to change what they are doing before the bylaws are enforced with any sort of fine or anything like that, he says.
There is also a “duty of care” in the 18-year-old maintenance bylaw.
“The boulevard is an extension of opportunity for more lawn, so it’s a play area – you can’t fence that area, but in a lot of areas people don’t even know where that property line is and their lawn goes all the way to the sidewalk,” says city planning manager Mike Gau. “So their property, in fact, looks even bigger, and there’s no charge for that – if you will – other than the duty of care to ensure that it’s not unsightly and not used for parking.”
Things have changed since the old bylaw was written and many more people own their own RVs these days, say officials, who have now studied how other cities have dealt with this.
A plan will be outlined once direction is given by council, say officials.
Zoning bylaw rewrites will be conducted over the next 12 months, and there is information available on where people can store their RVs, etc., says Gau, citing the Home Owners Guide To The Zoning By-Law, which is available online or from the city. Among its recommendations: residents can rent space for their recreation equipment out at McCrae.
A full education campaign into the issue is expected by mid next year.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org