Article by Luke Edwards, St Catharine’s Standard
Being a good neighbour is a key to small town life. In Lincoln, not being a good neighbour could soon net you a fine.
Councillors approved a report at its April 12 committee of the whole meeting that paves the way for a new public nuisance bylaw. It will give municipal bylaw officers the ability to issue fines and penalties for individuals and businesses that they deem are being a public nuisance to neighbours.
“It covers everything from laser lights in the backyard to knocked over porta potties to greenhouses growing smelly stuff,” said Coun. Mike Mikolic, chair of the planning and economic development committee.
Councillors were generally supportive of the proposed bylaw, though they did have questions, mostly surrounding the parts that deal with odour and light issues from cannabis and cannabis production. For the most part, bylaw officers will use their own judgment to determine if a complaint is legitimate.
Addressing questions from Coun. Paul MacPherson, manager of municipal law enforcement Mike Barkway gave a brief explanation of the process. Once a neighbour lodges a complaint an officer will head out to the area several times. Since odour is highly subjective and dependent on several external factors like wind and weather, Barkway said the officer will note those factors and visit the area at different times of the day.
If it’s determined to be a nuisance, an officer will then determine which property is the culprit and contact the owner. Officers can then issue an order, and give the owner a timeline for compliance. Failure to comply could result in a court date and fines of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for a corporation.
“When it’s a repeated offence those fines go up substantially,” said Barkway.
“It’s a process, it’s not a silver bullet where the smell is noticed on a Sunday and it’s fixed on a Monday,” said MacPherson.
The bylaw doesn’t really cover personal use or personal growing of cannabis, Barkway told Coun. Adam Russell. A person smoking cannabis is really only subject to the Region’s smoking bylaw, and as long as a person is only growing the allowed four plants, the town’s hands are tied, added Barkway.
“It’s no different than having a mustard plant in the backyard,” he said.
In some circumstances the complaint would have to be referred to the Ontario Ministry of Farming and Rural Affairs, which has a process to rule on normal farm practices through the Farming and Food Production Protection Act.