Leduc County’s proposed community standards bylaw is receiving mixed reviews and saw its last public open house on Sept. 2.
Leduc County mayor John Whaley says county residents are using the open houses to voice their opinions and thoughts of the bylaw, as they were intended.
“This is purely getting feedback from our public,” said Whaley. He explained council both wants and needs to hear the ratepayers opinions
“There is no hidden agenda, there are no preconceived decisions,” he added.
The draft bylaw was given first reading June 23. The first open house was held in New Sarepta on Aug. 25, the second was on Aug. 27 at the Sunnybrook Hall and the final at the Leduc County Centre in Nisku on Sept. 2.
“People want to know what it’s about and why. What’s the impact to the residents,” said Whaley.
Council felt there was a need for a Leduc County community standards bylaw that focused solely on unsightly and nuisance properties, as the number of complaints coming into the county has been increasing over the past few years.
Whaley says county staff deal with about 80 to 100 complaints on a continual basis.
“The way we address it, you try to get the collaboration and cleanup,” said Whaley.
He says those early steps work in most cases but not all and council wanted a tool that it could turn to before having to bring in the court system.
During the open house in Nisku, director of enforcement services Clarence Nelson told concerned residents the bylaw is simply a tool to set the same parameters for everyone. He says as the county has no regulations it is difficult to enforce action. “Right now we’re spinning our wheels.”
Ratepayer concerns include who gets the say on what is a nuisance and what is not.
“This takes away our discretion. Right now we have ultimate discretion,” said Nelson.
“We’re not looking to go after people,” peace officer Greg Barker explained.
Barker says approximately 95 per cent of county residents are already in compliance with what the bylaw is looking for; the other 5 per cent are not. Of that 5 per cent Barker says 95 per cent will move to comply with just a conversation.
The bylaw will be able to fast track dealing with properties not in compliance rather than waiting for them to become an actual detriment or even illegal before action can be taken.
Another concern of residents is the bylaw will instead give unhappy neighbours more teeth to their complaints.
Nelson says even when complaints come in there are options and officers want to work with the landowners.
“If you’re trying your best to keep it neat, that’s all we’re asking,” said Barker.
Whaley says many people are still unsure of who exactly the bylaw will affect; another concern. Most farming operations will be exempt. “The problem is the bylaw doesn’t say that.”
“It’s not perfect, that’s why we’re out for public input,” he added.
Following the open houses staff will make a report to council and the comments sheets filled in by the public will be reviewed. Whaley says he expects the bylaw to be before council again later in the fall.