Recreational vehicles can no longer be parked in the front yard of homes anywhere in Sarnia.
Likewise, it’s now verboten for parents to drop children off at Errol Road School by stopping on Lombardy Drive.
And if you’re planning to drag an old sofa to the curb for bulk garbage collection, don’t even think of doing it before 6 p.m. the previous night.
Those and many other “Don’t” are contained in just three of 13 bylaws or bylaw amendments city council approved in September. Bylaws are bits of legislation meant to regulate property use, enhance public safety and address the irritants of urban life, like nuisance smoke and those new neighbours in 3C who listen to Miley Cyrus at full volume.
But who polices all these bylaws?
Well, you do, actually.
In Sarnia, bylaw enforcement officers work primarily on a complaint-driven basis. Yes, the rules are there on the books – lots and lots of rules – but the officers usually take action only after someone complains.
Take the RV thing. A Sarnia man asked the city last year to consider changing the zoning bylaw to allow RVs, trailers and boats to be openly stored on residential properties during camping season.
He had parked an RV in the driveway of his Indian Road home for 30 years. But one day a bylaw enforcement officer showed up after a neighbour complained. It was prohibited in his area of town, and that was that.
The city gets a lot of complaints from people who say their neighbour’s camper or RV is ugly and a safety hazard. One frustrated couple noted that when they complained, a bylaw enforcement officer showed up, the RV was moved, and the next day it reappeared in the driveway.
Bylaw officers deal with a lot of difficult people. They often give a warning or leave a notice of violation when responding to a complaint, to give the owner a chance to correct the violation before issuing a ticket.
For some that aren’t corrected (property maintenance, failing to cut the grass) the city will do the work and charge the owner for the money spent.
With the RV bylaw, the amendment council passed does not make it easier for their owners. In fact, it harmonizes rules that some say are already too strict, and applies then evenly across the city.
But it’s still a complaint-driven system. So, rules shmules. Expect to see campers and boats and RVs continue to be parked in front of homes – unless, of course, the neighbours rat them out.