St. Catharines Council locks in its tougher new boulevard bylaw


Published April 20, 2022 at 2:24 pm

St. Catharines passed its tougher new "boulevard bylaw" on Monday, meaning residents encroaching on the sidewalks or streets could find their expensive yardwork being removed at their own cost. (Photo: HGTV)

As first reported by Insauga on March 22, St. Catharines Council has now voted in a tougher bylaw as to what is and what isn’t allowed on boulevards and unopened road allowance within city limits.

As city staff initially reported, the problem lay mostly on the city’s feet as defined rules were vague at best so residents were doing whatever they wished on their properties.

However, forgotten by many residents is the fact that cities and towns usually owns the first 10 feet from the roadway and that property lines don’t begin until just past that point.

This is why citizens can’t simply cut down a roadside tree because it bothers them and conversely, city staff can cut it down without homeowners’ permission.

To that end, for the safety of citizens and city staff more specific rules were needed. As well, staff said it gave them more defined guidelines in neighbour disputes.

The city said, “In the instance of boulevards, built and landscape elements can block sight lines for traffic as well as create safety and liability concerns related to the maintenance of sidewalks and roads.”

More specifically, they added, “For example, above-grade masonry work abutting sidewalks could be caught and possibly thrown by snow-removal equipment posing a risk to person and property.”

“This (new bylaw) allows us to better address issues on City-owned land that have long fallen within a grey area of municipal oversight, ensuring both residents and their property are protected, while providing avenues for dispute resolution,” said St. Catharines Director of Municipal Works Darrell Smith.

Specifically, the new by-law:

  • limits the height of landscaping and built elements in boulevards to one metre;
  • prohibits the replacement of sod boulevards with hard surfaces or artificial turf, limiting the cost of restoration claims should these areas need to be excavated for utilities; and
  • dictates that landscape or built features must be set back from the sidewalk by at least 1.5 metres and at least three metres from the road shoulder should no sidewalk exist.

The original report, presented to Council on March 21 but months in the making, noted, “To date, unauthorized works have taken place on both boulevards and unopened road allowances across the city. At best, these incumbrances can be problematic from a liability perspective, while others can compromise public safety.”

However, staff realized that stricter measures were need because they were hearing complaints about the issues from the folks next door. “These unauthorized installations are also frequently a catalyst for neighbour disputes.”

The report gave the most common examples. “Landscape bricks located too close to a sidewalk edge will often be clipped by a sidewalk blower or plow. The best case (scenario) is minor to severe damage occurs to City equipment and a trip hazard results from the heaved brick. The worse case (scenario) is a dislodged brick can become a projectile and injure the worker, passing pedestrian or motorist.”

Trees and bushes were a similar problem, cited originally. “Another common issue is vegetation that is planted in the boulevard that is not trimmed and obstructs sightlines.”


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