Is either municipal role appropriate?

November 3, 2016   ·   0 Comments

AS WE SEE IT, there is enormous difference in the treatment currently being accorded two land owners in the Town of Mono.

On the one hand, the owner of a lovely man-made lake in a worked-out gravel pit says he has had to spend $30,000 to date battling a seemingly endless and vicious attempt by the Town to prevent him from hosting two water-skiing competitions per year on the lake, which is ideally suited for the purpose and should be of no concern to neighbours, all of whom live far from the lake.

The bizarre battle by the Town has already led to several days’ hearings before a Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) hearing officer and may require another six days in February, at a cost to Mono taxpayers likely to exceed $250,000.

On the other hand, there is the plight of Sandra Proudfoot, owner of a Mono bed and breakfast, whose Letter to the Editor appears elsewhere on this page.

Unlike Cliff Singer, owner of the lake north of Mono Mills, Ms. Proudfoot’s neighbour has had no problem with the Town, which contends it has no authority to take action against residents whose littering of their own property damages the livelihood of a neighbour.

As we see it, the two cases and recent complaints by Mono residents concerning “bird bangers” used by the Adamo winery to protect its vineyard illustrate the potential problems in the administration of any municipality that is a mix of urban and rural populations.

In the case of the Singers, Mono is effectively supporting a contention of the NEC that its control over development in the Escarpment area extends far beyond regulating proposed industrial, commercial or residential projects that would alter the landscape.

The unchallenged fact of the matter is that the weekend water-skiing competitions involve only the use of a single boat with an inboard motor that produces no more air or water pollution than any other similarly-powered vehicle, and no noise that would infringe a noise bylaw that restricts amplified music and announcements during such an event to daylight hours.

Without a doubt, municipalities have both the right and an obligation to regulate noisy events, and the NEC can and should be able to regulate development proposals that involve a permanent change in the use of a property.

But we’ve never seen any explanation of why the NEC should require a development permit where an event involves no permanent structures, let alone any change to the existing landscape. (In fact, the only role assigned to the NEC by provincial legislation is the encouragement of recreational activities!)

As for the ‘bird bangers,’ there’s no doubt that the explosive noise disturbs the immediate neighbourhood, but there’s equally no doubt that they are for an agricultural purpose and appear to have been working. To this extent, we doubt there is much, if anything, the Town of Mono can do about it.

Even the critics appear to have accepted the Adamos’ explanation that without the noise-makers the winery lost up to 80 per cent of its grape crop to feasting birds last year, and that by mid-October the bangers had cut to losses dramatically, to about 12 per cent. The critics’ best argument seems to be that experience in California indicates that birds get used to the noise and in the long run covering the vines with netting is more effective.

But if Ontario municipalities lack the power to regulate normal farming practices, the same surely cannot be said concerning unsightliness in any property.

It seems more than passing strange that a municipality that can use its planning powers to zone properties and require building permits for any new structure cannot take bylaw action against a land owner who leaves unused cars or boats that a neighbor finds unsightly to the point of reducing property values in the area.

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