Boulevard bylaw: status quo

No exceptions, says council

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Phase II of the boulevard bylaw discussion was before Slave Lake town council on Nov. 19. Change it or leave it the same? Make an exception in the case where a couple asked for one? It was decision time, and council had an actual debate and ended with a split decision.

The issue is what to allow and now allow in the strip of town-owned property across the front edge of people’s yards. The bylaw has restricted what people can do in this space (no permanent structures, for example) for a long time. In 2015 it was revamped and clarified, after a spate of violations and complaints arose during the disaster recovery rebuild.

Basically, the boulevards should have grass on them and nothing else. The town assumes it is going to have to dig them up at some point, and doesn’t want the hassle or expense of dealing with people’s trees, shrubs, rocks or other structures. Recently property owners from 8th St. SE asked for an exception for their juniper shrubs. There was some sympathy on council, but the decision to amend the bylaw or not was put off for a couple of weeks. Now it was decision time.

Councillor Brice Ferguson was one of the ones in the mood for making an exception. Is there a way to ‘grandfather’ certain situations, he asked, noting that town policy has been to not make a fuss when mature trees are on a boulevard.

No thanks, said councillor Joy McGregor. She noted that after losing her house in the 2011 wildfire, the rules did not allow her driveway to be nearly as wide as it had been to begin with, and she complied. We shouldn’t start making exceptions, she said.

Councillor Julie Brandle was also for leaving well enough along. She recalled that the 2015 revamp of the boulevard bylaw had been comprehensive, involving a lot of input from the public.

Councillor Darin Busk agreed.

“We did a long deliberation with this,” he said. “I’m not interested in going through that process again.”

Mayor Warman said he struggles with this one. He gets that the town is trying to protect itself with a ‘one size fits all’ rule for boulevards. But in this case, (the junipers) the likelihood of it ever causing a problem is very small indeed.

That may be true, said the director, but it will encourage the neighbours to start planting things on their boulevards, and where does it stop.

Councillor Rebecca King was for getting on with it.

“We decided rules are rules a few weeks ago,” she said. “So are rules rules?”

King made a motion to accept the report as information, which would amount to approval of the status quo. Oddly enough, it was defeated by a 4 – 3 vote, with councillor Brandle on the ‘nay’ side.

However, she realized she’d misunderstood the motion and asked for a re-vote. The motion was re-stated, the vote taken again and this time it was passed 4 – 3, with Warman, Gramlich and Ferguson opposed.

“Sometimes I don’t think we make things easy,” was Warman’s closing remark.

Don’t be planting anything other than grass on that portion of your front yard that belongs to the town.

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