The room went silent when the public question period opened.
Mayor Dieter Bogs had initiated public time at Monday night’s city council meeting and asked a full council chambers gallery of 23 people if anyone wished to speak to council on a matter of concern.
After repeated calls and no speakers one woman finally stood up and opened a flood gate for debate on an issue that had rubbed several Trail residents the wrong way in fall, and now could potentially pit neighbours against each other.
She pointed to council’s recent move to place a $500 fine—initiated only on receipt of a valid neighbour complaint—on non compliance for improper storage of a recreational vehicle, improper placement of a swimming pool or a temporary vehicle shelter.
The city’s previous zoning bylaw prohibited storing those items on front driveways and lawns, as well as exterior side yards of corner lots. But there was no penalty in place for violating the rules.
“I don’t understand why we are being criticized for what we choose to do or store on our property,” the woman asked council.
The fine would not be levied unless a neighbour consented to generate a compliance complaint, said city corporate administrator Michelle McIsaac.
She noted that, in fall, as part of the city’s annual search for unlicensed vehicles parked on city streets, 62 letters went out for improper storage of recreational vehicles, which was reduced to seven after the property owners complied. Only one fine was handed out after a neighbour complained.
“I know (complaints driven) is what we are going to, but it’s not perfect by any means because people don’t want to get into any trouble with their neighbours,” said Bogs.
After the woman spoke, nine other people rose to voice their displeasure with the way the city was handling the issue. The people spoke and council listened. But it did not sink in.
After a lengthy debate, council approved setting the fine amount at $500 for the bylaw infraction, despite a motion made at third reading by councillor Kevin Jolly to rescind the amendment and consider reducing the fine.
The rule on parking RVs in front yards had been in place since 2002. Parking them on the street for more than 24 hours is prohibited as well.
Under amendments to the city’s municipal ticketing information bylaw, violators will now be subject to $500 fines which are enforceable in Provincial Court.