Woolwich residents who help beautify township land with plantings and landscaping efforts won’t be penalized under a new encroachment policy adopted this week by councillors.
So-called soft encroachments – gardens and flowerbeds, for instance, that spill over onto boulevards and municipal rights-of-ways – are fine, but the township will be cracking down on cases where fences, sheds and the like intrude on its property.
A softer approach has been encouraged by the current council, lightening the stance taken previously. Clerk Christine Broughton’s amended policy was quickly approved Tuesday night.
The policy was drafted to deal with more than 100 encroachments identified last year, instances where homeowners had taken over use of abutting township property. In about 20 occurrences, that involved erecting structures such as fences, sheds and gazebos. Other violations included expansion of gardens and walkways, among others.
Noting that the beautification efforts of some residents enhance township property, councillors pushed for that practice to be encouraged, with the caveat that responsibility for the plants lies with the residents, even if public works crews have to disturb them in order to carry out maintenance.
One area the township would like to remain untouched, however, is storm-water management ponds. Those spots are supposed to be naturalized, home to a variety of natural plants and animals.
Residents should refrain from mowing the grass too close to the ponds, said Coun. Mark Bauman
“The long grass and weeds around ponds may look unsightly, but it’s healthy.”
Illustrating that the policy isn’t carved in stone, councillors later provided an exemption to Bert and Heidi Menkveld of 8 Victoria Glen St., who have a shed that crosses over their property line onto municipal land. The shed, which was constructed in place behind their house and is not movable, was there when they bought the home nine years ago. Because it was built in place, in order to avoid encroaching on Woolwich land, it would have to be torn down.
The encroachment agreement with the couple would also formalize use of a township right-of-way that provides access to the property. Councillors were clear, though, that they want the right-of-way kept clear of clutter. Cars parked on the drive would have to be licenced and roadworthy.
Coun. Bonnie Bryant called for the property standards bylaw to be well-enforced.