Ottawa, Ontario

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In July 2009, Judith O’Grady received a notice under Ottawa Bylaw 2005-207 stating that a complaint had been received about her garden.

A week later, Hank & Vera Jones, living in a rural area of Ottawa were charged under the same by law.

Please let Ottawa know that you support native plants in the city as well as the country.  Contact Mayor Larry O'Brien.

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mail: 110 Laurier Avenue West  Ottawa, Ontario  K1P 1J1
phone:  613-580-2496
fax:  613-580-2509

The dispute attracted the attention of the media, the general public, and Canada's Ecojustice.   Rather than continue to press the issue, Ottawa Councillors wisely decided to revisit their outdated bylaw.  Hank & Vera Jones and representatives of Ecojustice are in active discussions with City officials drafting a new bylaw intended to protect ecologically oriented properties.  Stay tuned for the new and improved bylaw...sometime next year? Henry and Vera Jones have spent months planning their back-to-nature wildflower garden. Photograph by: Pat McGrath, The Ottawa Citizen


Wildlife garden bylaw to lie fallow until 2011 Municipal staff cite resources, heavy workload for delay

BY KATE JAIMET, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN    FEBRUARY 12, 2010 OTTAWA — Wildlife gardeners will have to wait another year before the city changes its bylaw to
allow tall grasses and wildflowers to flourish in people's yards.
"Based on our resources and current workloads, we won't get to it this year," said Christine Hartig, a policy officer in the city's bylaw and regulatory services branch.

But Capital Councillor Clive Doucet said the decision to delay the bylaw changes was made without councillors' input, and he wants the gardening matter dealt with this year, as planned.

"We were told by senior staff it would be ready to go this spring," Doucet said. "Why wouldn't you want to straighten it out this year? It's not rocket science. ... It's so simple."
The regulatory change will involve rewriting a property-standards bylaw, which stipulates that "heavy undergrowth shall be eliminated from the yard so as to be consistent with the surrounding environment." The issue came to a head last summer when bylaw officers, responding to a complaint from a neighbour, issued a notice of violation to Hank and Vera Jones for the wildlife garden they were trying to grow in the yard of their Constance Bay home.

The Joneses were initially told to either cut their yard down to something more like a groomed lawn, or the city would cut it for them. After some negotiation, the city decided to hold off. Meanwhile, the Joneses said they were willing to get a court injunction to prevent the city from mowing their property, using the court case as a platform to make a point about environmentally friendly gardening. In the end, no court action was taken.

Hartig said that this summer's growing season will allow bylaw officers and policy-makers to gain more insight and experience with wildlife gardens, prior to rewriting the bylaw. She added that other, unrelated changes to the property-standards bylaw need to be made, and it is most efficient to do them all at once, in early 2011.

The city has the authority to mow lawns that contravene the bylaw. However, Hartig said bona fide wildlife gardeners do not have to fear that their lawns will be cut down this summer.

"If it is indeed a bona fide naturalized garden, we wouldn't make them cut it down," said Hartig. "Most often, it's either vacant land, or the long grass is part of a myriad of other issues, such as derelict vehicles and waste and debris. In our experience, landowners who are in the habit of keeping derelict vehicles and waste and debris on their property are not naturalized gardeners."
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