By Stephen Vance, Editor
There is no question that it can’t be easy to be a member of a municipal council, but it is an important job, and one that the general public counts on in order to ensure they are represented at their local council.
Sometimes councillors have difficult decisions to make, and sometimes, even though a decision will prove to be unpopular with some, councillors are obligated to make decisions that are in the best interest of the municipality and those who reside within that municipality.
Using the power of establishing a new bylaw which targets a resident or property who haven’t violated any current bylaw in order to attempt a removal of a front-yard structure that some might find less than aesthetically pleasing, is not what we elect our councillors to do.
Granted, a chain-link enclosure to house large dogs on the front yard of a home in Meaford’s downtown area would be seen as unsightly and perhaps annoying by many, but to attempt to have a new bylaw created with the hope that its application can be retroactive in order to impose it on the target of the bylaw leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
If you have a posted speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour, and you find that traffic moves too quickly, so the limit is reduced to 50 kilometres per hour, would you then retroactively fine all drivers who were previously travelling at 60 kilometres per hour? No, that would be unfair. Actually, it would be insane.
The resident who is the target of the proposed bylaw to outlaw animal structures on front lawns has not broken any rules. In fact, if anything, they should possibly be complimented for being responsible dog owners. I’m no fan of dogs, a very bad attack by a St. Bernard when I was a child ensured me a life of fear of our canine friends, and I am forever frustrated by people that don’t contain or restrain their dogs in some way. Leashes and fenced yards go a long way to ensuring that a dog won’t run loose, and potentially injure anyone.
So given that the resident obviously put some thought into how best to contain their dogs, and given the fact the property has no rear, or side yard, they clearly invested some thought, time, money, and effort into creating the structure at the front of their home.
They have not broken any current laws, and Councillor Deborah Young is correct in saying that they should be left alone.
If the community, and council agree that such front-yard structures are unsightly and have no place in our community, then fine, establish a new bylaw so that it won’t happen in the future, but you can’t punish someone after the fact when they were in compliance of the law at the time of the perceived infraction.
How many older homes would not meet modern day building codes? Should all owners of older homes be forced to suddenly comply with the building codes today? Should all of those owners of those older homes be punished because their homes were built within the laws of the day, but are now in contravention of building codes? That too would be insane wouldn’t it?
I understand the difficult position council is in, and I understand the desire to create a new bylaw due to a current incident that council might not want to see repeated. But to suggest that a proposed new bylaw should be implemented retroactively on a specific target is not only unfair, it is disgusting.