Council news: Mitton resigns her seat opening way for by-election in May; Sackville won’t enact a tall grass bylaw

The new provincial Green caucus: party leader David Coon (centre) with Kevin Arseneau and Megan Mitton

Megan Mitton has formally resigned her seat on Sackville Town Council to pursue a new career as the Green Party member of the legislature for Memramcook-Tantramar.

In a letter read at the October 9th council meeting by Councillor Andrew Black, Mitton promised to use her experience in municipal politics to serve the people of Sackville at the provincial level in Fredericton.

She added it had been a pleasure working with the mayor, councillors, town staff and community members.

“Everyone is working hard to make Sackville such a special place and I will miss working with you at town hall,” Mitton’s letter said.

Black also moved a motion that received unanimous support accepting Mitton’s resignation and declaring a vacant seat on council.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who was filling in for an absent Mayor Higham, explained that the next step would be to inform Elections New Brunswick of the vacancy so that a by-election can be called.

Normally, a by-election would be held in December, but uncertainty at the provincial level will delay things.

Paul Harpelle, who speaks for Elections NB, says the by-election will be held on May 6, 2019.

“This was not a decision taken lightly by the municipal electoral officer,” he said in an e-mail, “however, given the resources required to prepare for the next provincial election where the date is uncertain, this was the most logical course of action.”

Splendour in the grass

Joyce O’Neill failed to get anyone to second her motion

Also, at Tuesday night’s council meeting, it finally became clear that Sackville will not be enacting a bylaw to control the height of grass and other vegetation on private, residential property.

Councillor Joyce O’Neill read a motion that would have directed town staff to draft such a by-law, but the motion died when no other councillor would second it. (Councillor Phinney, who has supported O’Neill on this issue in the past, was not present at the October 9th meeting.)

“I feel strongly on this,” O’Neil said, echoing concerns she first raised during a council meeting in August about long grass at a property on Bridge Street near her home:

“Our biggest fear out that way is that with all this dead grass, all you need is a cigarette flicked into that and the house is old, the grass has grown in underneath the verandah and to me it’s such a chance of that going up, catching on fire,” O’Neill said in August, adding that the lives of three small children are at risk in a house next door.

Few complaints, little support

After an 18-minute discussion during the August meeting, CAO Phil Handrahan promised that staff would look into the feasibility of such a bylaw and report back to council.

At its meeting on October 1st, council then heard from town manager Jamie Burke who gave a six minute report on the pros, cons and costs of such a bylaw.

He also reported that in the last two years, the town has received three complaints about long grass. However, during recent publicity about whether Sackville should follow Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe in enacting a by-law, Burke said the town received no letters in favour and four against.

To listen to Burke’s full report, click on the media player below:

Councillor Bill Evans seemed to sum up the opinions of the majority of councillors at the October 1st meeting:

“Do we really want to get into what is essentially an aesthetic rule about the appearance of people’s property?” he asked.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken along with Councillors Andrew Black and Michael Tower spoke against a grass bylaw with only Councillor Phinney speaking in favour citing concerns about fire safety. (Councillor O’Neill was not present at the October 1st meeting.)

So, Sackville residents will remain free to let the tall grasses grow and the wildflowers wave as long as their vegetation does not interfere with visibility at intersections. (To read what the town’s zoning bylaw has to say about corner sight lines, click here.)

NOTE: It appears that the town’s dangerous and unsightly premises bylaw doesn’t apply because the provincial local governance act does not appear to include vegetation under its dangerous and unsightly provisions. (To read what the act does include, click here.)

New bylaw officer

At the October 9th meeting, council also appointed Corey Springer as the town’s new bylaw officer effective October 29th.

Springer will no doubt be expected to take into account council’s decision not to enact a tall grass bylaw.

In August, Springer’s interim predecessor threatened a Sackville homeowner with a minimum $1,000 fine unless the homeowner chopped down vegetation on the property within 11 days.

The homeowner had been cultivating a permaculture garden with a variety of plants such as giant kale, wild strawberries, lupins, violets, wild evening primrose, clover (to attract bees), periwinkle and skirret, a type of heritage vegetable dating back to medieval times.

The homeowner’s property does not border on a town intersection.

The homeowner, who asked not to be identified, complied and chopped the plants down. Here is the hand-delivered letter the homeowner received with name and address removed:

2018-08-27

Dear,

XXXXXXXXXXX

It has come to our attention that the property at XXXXXXXXXXXXX, Sackville, New Brunswick, has become in violation of By-Law 209 “Maintenance and Occupancy Standards“, this has occurred by allowing the grass to grow past the point where animals and creatures could begin to inhabit the area.

Failure to maintain the grass and tidy the area will result in a fine not less than $1000, but not exceeding the maximum fine set by the Provincial Offenses Procedure Act for a category “F” offense multiplied by the number of days during which the offence continues, as well as any expense the town incurs to have the property maintained.

This letter is to notify you of the issue and to have the issue corrected by no later than September 7, 2016. [Sic]

I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any questions about this letter, or By-Law 209, you may contact us at (506) 364-4930.

Sincerely,

Brooke Wilson

 [Signature]

By-Law Enforcement Officer

Town of Sackville, NB

(506) 364-4930

Brooke Wilson’s defence

During a telephone interview, Wilson said she issued the letter after one of her summer student bylaw officers received a complaint from a “concerned citizen” about the homeowner’s property.

She added that town Bylaw 209 mentions that grass should not be allowed to grow past the point where animals and creatures could begin to inhabit the area. (I could not find those words in the bylaw.) Wilson suggested that the dangerous and unsightly premises bylaw also applies.

Just before our conversation ended, she said, “I shouldn’t be talking to you about this. I report to [Treasurer] Michael Beal.”

During the question period at last night’s council meeting, Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said there is no bylaw regulating tall grass on residential properties other than the zoning one that refers to corner sight lines at town intersections.

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8 Responses to Council news: Mitton resigns her seat opening way for by-election in May; Sackville won’t enact a tall grass bylaw

  1. tuxemal says:

    The link provided to bylaw 209 only focuses on fines, appeals and processes for implementation.
    There is no information regarding what actions would be in contravention of the bylaw.
    There must be another document that contains that. The document on the town website does not include the entire bylaw it would appear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Percy Best says:

    The Town of Sackville is, without a doubt, the biggest offender of all when it comes to letting vegetation grow without proper maintenance. They only hire a tractor mower once a year to make a single pass, approximately three feet wide, along the road shoulders of our Town that is not regularly looked after outside of our downtown core. The vast majority of ditches are certainly not being maintained as they once were and are growing up with alders and small trees along most of the roadways. Sadly resident safety these days seems to be on the bottom of the priority pile as opposed to parks, walking trails and flower beds.

    One has to simply take a look at how PEI maintains it’s roadsides and there is absolutely no comparison to our neglected roadsides. There is more to Sackville than the downtown core! Sackville is not walking, jogging or bicycling friendly. And whatever happened to our Town trying to help motorists respect the ‘Ellen’s Law’.

    Hopefully in the new budget for next year there will be included at least one offset bush wacker as well as a roadside mower.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ADB says:

      “Parks, walking trails and flower beds” Ughh! Wild flowers and small trees growing in the ditches! They may be even letting ducks and frogs live in there. A travesty to say the least! We should run the whole lot out of town before they turn this place into somewhere nice. Bloody snowflakes.

      Like

  3. Louis says:

    As I’ve said before, it all comes down to the people who want to tell others how to live, and the people who don’t want to tell others how to live. The second group look like they’ve had a minor victory in Sackville, for once.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rima Azar says:

    Well, I thought our town was green now 🙂 (or its greenery is only when it is suitable?). Mind you, I am saying this and I do not have a (thick?) green coating myself nor any talent for gardening. I am just teasing whilst appreciating my fellow citizens’ ecological aspirations.

    This is why I find the story of this Sackville homeowner, cultivating a permaculture garden, who was threatened to pay a fine of $1000 disturbing. Yes, the $1000 may not exceed the maximum fine set by the Provincial Offenses Procedure Act, but… it is still a lot of money, especially on a daily basis! Is there more to this story, one may wonder.

    Related to this, although I am not an expert of permacultures, I wonder if our town offers any community workshops on locally-adapted permacultures? If not, perhaps such courses (or just tips on the town’s website?) could help educate citizens about permaculture gardens. In addition to tips on best practices, such educational tools could perhaps include information on those (*dangerous*?) “creatures and/or animals”.

    Like

    • Percy Best says:

      Rima, reading above, the actual threat of a fine was a minimum of $1000 PER DAY multiplied by the number of days that the citizen’s property was NOT compliant. Plus — any expense that the Town occurred, which could mean any legal fees as well. So non compliance by this dreamed up by-law system could conceivably see the homeowner totally losing their home to the Town after say 4 months. $120,000 minimum fine. The town would then have the funding available to hire a couple of more by-law officers to beef up their long grass and weed patrol.

      It’s comical that come next week one can get as ‘high’ as they want from $8 a gram ‘weed/grass’ — BUT — your lawn’s ‘weed/grass’ could have been restricted to only 8″ ‘high’! Strange times we live in!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rima Azar says:

        Ha!ha!ha! Ok I laughed although I am not sure if I should be laughing, smiling, or just seriously saying that I can only agree with you Percy. Anyhow, thank you for your informative (yet shocking) reply: it does not make much sense… Strange times indeed.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Dodie says:

    The Municipalities Act RSNB 1973, c M-22, under which Bylaw 209 is enacted, has been repealed; I think that means that Bylaw 209 can no longer be enforced.

    Also, as I said in my letter to Council, if the Town is that worried about “critters” living in the Town, they should have a look at the Waterfowl Park….. there are all kinds of critters living in and near the Park. And what about the marsh, which is also partly within Town limits? This proposal was ridiculous from the start.

    If I were that homeowner, I think I would want compensation for the produce that was lost when the homeowner was forced to cut down their garden.

    Liked by 1 person

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