Citizen complaint highlights issue with community standards bylaw stipulation

Written by Terri Huxley

Further to council’s direction, Forestburg village staff have been continually handling complaints regarding yards and derelict properties within the village.

One situation has come to light as a new resident sent in a letter to council.

A letter was sent to this resident giving them a warning to clean up their yard within three days or else the village will take action by cleaning it up themselves and then billing the resident for the work.

The name of the resident has been removed by administration from public record.

The letter was received July 12 with the direction to have it handled by July 15.

On July 16, staff entered the property and proceeded to do various jobs to have the property conform with the local Community Standards Bylaw.

The cost for mowing, tree pruning, hedge trimming, etc. is $150 per hour which was billed to the homeowner.

In the returning letter engaging council, the resident shared they have just moved to town but before officially retiring soon, they work away from the area and are ‘gone numerous days at a time’.

In this case, they left for work on July 11 and returned home on the evening of July 16.

They added that they had cut over half of the vacant property to ground level but were unable to complete the job due to a complication with their mower. The equipment was also left in the yard.

The letter stated, “I was billed $150 for the mowing of this lot. Not an outrageous fee, and the job was well done. 

“The issue I present is the time I was given to address this issue. 

I would think a time-lapse of at least two weeks, possibly four weeks, would be a fair time interval after notice of such violation before action is taken by the town to correct it,” the resident stated in their letter to council.

“It does not seem in any way right or fair to give someone who, most likely is unaware of contravening a town ordinance, two days to take corrective measures. 

“Also, not very welcoming to a new resident who was quite impressed with the town vibe and residents.”

The homeowner did pay the bill.

Administration determined that three days was ample time to have a resident clean their property once a warning letter has been issued but after reading the letter felt like ‘they had a very good reason behind why they did not complete the job’.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Dwight Dibben added that the weeds were ‘significantly high at the time’ which prompted quick action to maintain them before they got out of hand.

Council deliberated the topic, understanding where this person was coming from but also not wanting to set a precedent around the bylaw.

Council asked if there was a way to give people a few more days to act on the warning letter without changing the bylaw but administration shared that once the violation order has been acted on they don’t as they must follow that and the master fee rates bylaw.

CAO Dibben added that “Every citizen has the right to ask council for a different remedy.”

Council agreed to send a thank you letter back to the resident for bringing this to their attention.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.