Tell Cobourg to Grow Up!
Write to Mayor Gil Brocanier E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Attend a Monday evening Cobourg Council Meeting (starting at 4pm)
Victoria Hall, Council Chambers
55 King Street West
In April 2013, the small town of Cobourg, Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario revamped its boulevard bylaw to restrict the height of vegetation planted there to a mere 8 inches. No health or safety rationale for this restriction was profferred.
The 8 inch height limit is not new. Other municipalities have employed it to restrict the height of turf grass and noxious weeds. There is even a purpose for that restriction. Kentucky bluegrass is one of the worst known allergens. Restricting its height helps to prevent it (and most noxious weeds) from flowering and releasing all that harmful pollen (or seeding). Employing that restriction against non-harmful plants, however, merely cuts the choices of plants available to boulevard gardens…and that’s against the Charter of Rights.
Municipal bylaws are employed primarily to ensure health and safety and must infringe on the rights of residents as minimally as possible.
The Ontario Superior Court has already ruled that plants up to 1 metre (yes Cobourg, Canada has gone metric!) do not pose a traffic sight hazard. Numerous benefits are actually accorded to such plantings…including traffic calming and pedestrian safety. In the now infamous Bell vs Toronto ruling, the Court accepted that imposing a height limit would effectively prevent most native meadow gardens.
“It is apparent that the primary purpose of the bylaw is to impose on all property owners the conventional landscaping practices considered by most people to be desirable” in violation of Section 2B of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “it has been applied in way that imposes aesthetic standards with which, naturalized gardens could never comply”
Despite the bylaw being unconstitutional, Town Council passed it and then immediately applied it against the 10 year old garden of Councillor Miriam Mutton…cutting her valuable garden to the ground, while leaving other boulevard gardens unmolested. In the dual role of Councillor and as a private citizen suffering a breach of her constitutional rights, Ms Mutton is in a difficult situation. As a Councillor, it is her duty to stand up for the Charter of Rights, but she is also restricted from speaking out about this particular case as it is seen as a conflict of interest. She needs us to speak up for her and for all other ecological Freedom Fighters.
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