‘Naturalized’ green space simply overgrown, resident tells Council

August 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

An Orangeville resident contends the Town is in breach of its own bylaws by allowing green space behind residential properties on Hutchinson Court to become overgrown. 

Elisa Gardner says she has lived in the subdivision off the west end of Hansen Boulevard, for the past six years. In addressing Town Council on Monday evening, she noted this was the first year the space, which includes a walkway for local residents to make use of, hadn’t been “properly” tended to. 

“We are concerned that the Town does not look after our isolated subdivision. Originally, the tall grass was cut and maintained on a regular basis. The area has now become overgrown, as noxious weeds range from three to five feet in all areas,” Ms. Gardner stated.

She presented a petition to Council, signed by more than a dozen residents in the area. In that petition, the Town is asked to take on responsibility to maintain the green space.

When asked to comment on the situation, Ray Osmond, the Town’s General Manager of Community Services, stated the land in question is currently designated for naturalization, as per direction from Orangeville’s previous council. 

“Our policy on mowing grass on our trail systems is to do one metre on each side,” Mr. Osmond informed Council. “A development agreement (signed by the town, property developer and residents in the area) signed in 2017 stipulates we cannot mow grass within a certain distance of the walkway and fences in the area because that area is naturalized. If we were to go in and cut it, we would probably be in breach of contract.”

He added, “If we were to change our policy in this respect, it would take a Council motion to do that. The previous Council made the decision and signed the agreement that would protect the area for naturalization.”

Ms. Gardner stated she fears for public safety following the significant increase in tick population in the region this summer. 

“The current spate of green space is a natural breeding spot for ticks. We are now concerned for the safety of our children, our pets and ourselves. We are all very concerned about the tick epidemic,” Ms. Gardner said. “The health department has advised all persons to be diligent in open areas, as tick (bites) can cause Lyme Disease and other health issues.”

Since the Town left the space to become naturalized, Ms. Gardner says there has also been a marked increase in the number of mosquitoes that frequent the area, as well as other “dangerous” insects and rodents. 

She asserts that, since local residents are forced to keep their private property maintained to a respectable level, that the Town should be forced to follow suit. 

“We Orangeville residents are held to a certain standard under bylaws to maintain our property and keep our grass under 15 or 20 centimetres in length, and to not have noxious weeds, rodents or overgrown bushes and dangerous insects within our property. The Town should be held to the same standard,” Ms. Gardner said. “Not only do I feel, but many residents of the community feel that the Town is not abiding by these laws, or standards.”

While Coun. Grant Peters said he understood and empathized with Ms. Gardner on this situation, he personally felt naturalization of land in Orangeville to be a good thing.

“I believe we should have more naturalized areas in town. They offer many environmental and social benefits, as well as privacy,” Coun. Peters said. “I would think, over time, having nature that close to your home would be a benefit, but I understand that not everybody feels that way.”

Coun. Todd Taylor disagreed with that view, expressing his belief that the land appeared to be “ugly” and “not maintained”. He went on to say that he feels the subdivision on the west end of Hansen Boulevard, cut off from the rest of town with the only entrance and exit out on Veteran’s Way, is being ignored by the municipality.

“My vote would be to support this initiative and have the lawn cut,” Coun. Taylor said. 

After listening to what the rest of Council had to say on the matter, Coun. Debbie Sherwood wanted to put this issue right back onto the doorstep of property owners in the area, stating homeowners should have “done their research” before purchasing in the subdivision.

“Wherever you’re buying, if you want to see what’s around in your surroundings, you have the opportunity to do your own research. (As Mr. Osmond stated) this would have been in the subdivision agreement (stating the land was slated for naturalization),” Ms. Sherwood said. “I worry about this opening up a whole can of worms on several subdivision agreements in our town. It’s through due diligence of people living in the area to read, and I know we don’t want to read reams of paperwork, but (you need to research) where you’re purchasing.”

Council directed Mr. Osmond to look into a potential increase of costs associated with denaturalizing the green space behind Hutchinson Court, while also considering the implications of going against signed and sealed subdivision agreements. A report and subsequent recommendation highlighting next best steps will be forthcoming at a future Council meeting in the fall.


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