Back to the drawing board for vacant building legislation
AMHERST - It's back to the drawing board for a pair of town bylaws after council elected to table proposed legislation on backyard swimming pools and vacant buildings.
While both bylaws were scheduled to come up for second reading at next week's regular council meeting, councillors elected Monday to ask staff to take another look at both.
"It seems to me we're making this bylaw fit because we can't enforce it and I would not be able to sleep at night knowing there are no fences around these pools," Coun. Robert Angel said while speaking about the proposed bylaw that would remove the requirement for a fence around above ground swimming pools. "I don't agree with saying we don't have the staff or personnel to enforce this so we're going to say it's open season. We've got to find a way to build in some protection."
The town was recently advised by its solicitor that it could be liable because it's not enforcing its bylaw on backyard swimming pools when it comes to the pleathora of inflatable and children's pools.
Staff said the difficulty in enforcing the bylaw is the portability of these pools in that they are not permanent structures and are usually back in place as quickly as owners are warned they are not in compliance with the bylaw.
Coun. Dale Fawthrop understands concerns raised by Angel and George Baker, but suggested parents must take some responsibility when it comes to backyard pools.
"Maybe we don't need laws to tell everyone what to do with everything they have," he said, adding almost everyone who builds a permanent backyard pool would put a fence in place.
Insurance coverage would also likely dictate whether a fence is required.
His feelings were shared by Coun. Robert Bird, who said he doesn't want to be part of anything that involves going around and fining people over "little bitty kiddie pools. He thinks the town is getting too involved in people's business.
"If I put a skating rink in my backyard am I going to need a fence around it because someone could fall on the ice? Maybe we need a helmet and lifejacket bylaw, where's the end of this?" he asked.
Meanwhile, several councillors expressed concern with the proposed vacant buildings bylaw and its provision that vacant buildings have their windows boarded up. Town manager Greg Herrett said more work is required on defining what triggers the bylaw and suggested council give more consideration to what they want the bylaw to accomplish.
"I think we're caught up on the words vacant and boarded up and need to look at a number of things such as what triggers the bylaw," he said.
Angel said not all vacant buildings need to have their windows boarded up and suggested that those that need to be boarded up should be painted the same colour as the building.
"There's nothing in there about that and I read that as they're going to continue to board them up until they turn gray," Angel said.
Baker said if there are windows in the building, they should be left alone.
The vacant buildings bylaw was introduced last month as a weapon to deal with a number of vacant, derelict buildings in the community. Planner Jason MacDonald said the bylaw would simply be another tool at the town's disposal. While the bylaw would give the town the power to acquire a vacant building, it is not about to get into the real estate market.
Under the present bylaws, the town only has the power to order property owners to fix up their buildings and properties.