Follow Up to Ecological Design Lab

For anyone who hasn’t viewed this excellent presentation, here is a brief summary of the content.
For the full discussion, see the link on the Jan 5 post.

Barriers, Bylaws and the Biophilic City: Advancing Natural Gardens and Native Plants in Our cities

Webinar hosted by Ryerson Carly Murphy and featured panelists:
Patricia Landry – City of Toronto
Haley Anderson
Lorraine Johnson
Nina-Marie Lister
Mark Cullen
David Donnelly – Lawyer

Discussion centred on the idea that the city’s “Grass and Weeds Bylaw” is actually a deterrent to growing native gardens. It contains out dated information eg grass cannot be higher than 20 centimeters. Even in 2020, residents are getting notices that goldenrod needs to be removed.
Nina-Marie Lister gave a brief history of the conflict between residents planting native or naturalized gardens in their front yards and city bylaw officers who do anything from warning the gardener, fining them or ultimately cutting the garden down.
She then spoke of her own recent situation that has been in the media this last summer where she was ordered to remove her native garden or face fines up to $5000
She hired a lawyer to fight the charge and was eventually granted an exemption.
Her lawyer’s stance is that an exemption is not satisfactory, it causes the bylaw officer to make a judgement and that is not acceptable. The bylaw as it reads now was ruled unconstitutional in 1996 and needs to be struck down or replaced with something that deals only with plants that harmful to nature or people – full stop.
Patricia Landry presented the city’s point of view, that the bylaw is still necessary to deal with derelict yards. The city received 6800 complaints this year and granted 38 natural garden exemptions – so her point being that the balance of the complaints were justified.
Bylaw officers are being trained to distinguish between native plants and noxious weeds and naturalized versus neglected.
Mark Cullen made the point that native gardens are not neglected but must be tended with similar care to traditional gardens. He said that if a garden was cut to the ground and left unattended it would be regenerate with 70% invasives.

History:
1994 Sandy Bell was issued a $50 fine for her natural garden, fought it and the bylaw was declared uninforceable
In early 2000, Douglas Counter took his case to the Ontario Superior court and won the right to garden on a public boulevard
2019 again a gardener Deborah Dale fought for the right to garden with native plants. The case was settled out of court with a gag order.
In Cobourg, Miriam Mutton’s boulevard garden was cut down 3 times before it was allowed to stay and ironically, during a summer drought when all the boulevards were brown, hers was lush and used as an example for their Cities in Bloom entry
In Burlington in June 2018, Doreen Nicoll was ordered to remove milkweed

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