By Trevor Busch
Boulevard parking violations throughout the municipality which, have developed into a growing concern for bylaw officers, could soon be an area of enhanced enforcement.
“Several months ago, our community peace officer came to me with some concerns with regard to boulevard parking,” said Sgt. Howard Kehler of the Taber Police Service, speaking from the gallery at town council’s Sept. 12 regular meeting. “As he was explaining those concerns to me, I said ‘Go out there and take a bunch of pictures of what is going on. I think we have an idea what is going on, but let’s put a package together, and let’s bring it to the Traffic Safety Committee so we can get some direction as to where we want to go with this thing.’ Really, I think we’re going to be opening Pandora’s Box a little bit with this.”
According to the provincial Traffic Safety Act, a boulevard is defined as any part of a highway in an urban area that is not roadway “and is that part of a sidewalk that is not especially adapted to the use of, or ordinarily used by pedestrians”. In layman’s terms and in the context of this community, the “boulevard” referred to is that area of green space (front or sides) dividing an owner’s property from town property, usually by a sidewalk. Sec. 44(d) of the TSA prohibits parking on a sidewalk or boulevard.
“So that was brought forward to the Traffic Committee,” continued Kehler. “We had a lengthy conversation about the different things that are in those pictures, but there’s lots more other stuff. The authority to deal with the majority of that stuff lies within the Traffic Safety Act, it’s very clear — you can’t park, and you can’t drive on a boulevard. Whether it’s a motor vehicle, or a vehicle, it can’t happen. But over the years — and I’ve experienced this, I’ve been in this community 19 years — there’s been a lot of things that have been done, either by homeowners on their own, by gentleman’s agreements by different departments in the town, or in fact through the planning committee, where they’ve agreed to things.”
The town’s police service and bylaw enforcement personnel prepared an information package showing the rules regulating parking on boulevards, and examples of the numerous violations of these rules by residents throughout the community. According to administration, the concern is that “if they start to enforce the rules, there will be complaints”.
“So we had this discussion, before we open Pandora’s Box, let’s bring a package to council so they can see where we’re heading with this, and just give you guys some information in relation to what we’re seeing, and what we think needs to be dealt with,” said Kehler. “And the law already allows us to do that. We’re not really looking for council’s approval in this case, we just want council to be aware, and to get a sense of are you seeing the same thing we’re seeing? I think you’d have to be blind not to see what’s going on.”
A related issue is with regard to development permits that have been issued by the town that allow parking on the boulevard rather than requiring standard, on-site parking. In some places, residents or owners have simply built their own pads on the boulevard.
Administration was seeking clarity on the differences so that it is clear where enforcement should occur.
“Really, by the letter of the law, we can enforce the majority of this stuff, but you guys are the ones that are going to get the phone calls,” said Kehler. “If we go out there and tell somebody they can’t have their trailer on the boulevard — because the issue is people are responsible by law to maintain and take care of the boulevard, but it’s still town property. But people feel that because they have to maintain and take care of it, that they can do as they see fit, be it parking, changing the appearance, knocking the curb out, whatever — you can see by those various pictures that’s what’s happening.”
Examples of boulevard parking violations provided to council by the Taber Police Service and bylaw enforcement displayed violations on 58th Avenue, 52nd Street, 52nd Avenue, 45th Avenue, 54th Avenue, 60th Avenue, 53rd Street, 54th Street and 62nd Avenue, among a number of other locations.
“I would like to thank the service for the good job in providing pictures, showing the problems that are occurring,” said Coun. Jack Brewin. “I can understand why we would have trouble enforcing this bylaw, because the bylaw shows no clear direction. It’s critical that we get this clarified for everyone.”
According to administration, “there is considerable debate as to what council would like enforced and what it believes appropriate as a community standard”, and council’s direction would be of benefit in defining those parametres.
“It’s not as clear cut as you think, there’s so many different circumstances,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger. “Personally, I would like see that you guys hash it out and come up with some kind of a more clear picture. I don’t want to see this, with every incident coming to council for moving the curb, people are upset. Why don’t you look at it and come up with a more clear-cut policy or plan, so the bylaw officer later has a little bit more guidance. Right now, it’s all over the map.”
Kehler disputed the assertion that enforcement parametres surrounding the issue are unclear.
“I think the Traffic Safety Act is very clear as to what you can, and can’t do.”
“So why is this here then?” questioned DeVlieger.
In reply, Kehler reiterated that the service and bylaw enforcement were simply attempting to make council aware of the issue, and that enforcement may be stepped up in future, precipitating a potential public relations problem for town council.
Administration suggested council could request an update of the Traffic Control Bylaw to clarify the rules of use for boulevards, as the current bylaw needs to be reviewed for updates regarding sign identification and other issues.
“I think we as council need to do our due diligence, and send it to the MPC (Municipal Planning Commission) for their recommendations,” said Coun. Rick Popadynetz. “I’ve seen this come through the MPC before. They track parking, and parking situations, so I think we need to do our due diligence and send it to the MPC.”
Referencing one of the photos provided to council in which a concrete driveway had recently been constructed in the boulevard, Coun. Joe Strojwas was careful to suggest that a measured approach be taken to identifying problem properties.
“If you take a look at this duplex, with it’s nice concrete pad there, the parking is illegally on the boulevard because the concrete pad was never approved by the Municipal Planning Commission. You’ve got people that have done this, and went through the process to get their extra parking provided for them, and some don’t. I think we need to identify what has been approved, and what isn’t approved. There have to be some specific plans set forth, and a procedure to follow.”
Referencing the same photo, Brewin also advised caution in identifying areas of concern for boulevard parking.
“They didn’t do their due diligence, I suppose, by not getting a permit. Maybe they thought it was alright, nobody said anything, so they carried on. Now you guys — as you say — may be opening pandora’s box. Once you do start enforcing these things, it’s hard to enforce them after the fact. It’s easier to beg forgiveness in a lot of cases than to ask permission, and I think that’s what happens quite a bit.”
Popadynetz pointed out that most stakeholders are given the opportunity to provide input on a development prior to subdivision approval, alluding that boulevard issues might be more properly dealt with through those procedural processes.
“I’m not talking about the stuff that’s gone through that department,” said Kehler. “I’m talking about the stuff that has been going on for a very long time, where proper procedure was never followed. We need to bring that to the attention of the homeowner, and to have that brought forward if it’s seen fit they need to be approved through the planning commission.”
Suggesting different rules often apply in different communities, Coun. Randy Sparks noted that in Bow Island, boulevards have been paved by that municipality and citizens are expected to park vehicles there.
“If they’ve done that, and they’ve now changed the definition to a driveway, then that definitely would allow that to happen,” said Kehler. “And I think there are some in here that that’s exactly what would happen — they’ll just get designated as a driveway, and a driveway you can park on, and cross. But there’s some definite abuse in relation to what’s been going on. I wouldn’t want to be the neighbour to some of those places.”
Following discussion on Sept. 12, town council voted unanimously to defer the issue to the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), in collaboration with the Taber Police Service, to review boulevard parking guidelines and come back to council with a designated plan.
Administration’s original recommended motion, which was declined by town council, asked that council accept information provided by the Taber Police Service and bylaw enforcement regarding the rules for parking on boulevards, and ask the police service to work with the town’s Planning and Economic Development department to identify properties for which development permits have been issued allowing parking on boulevards rather than requiring on site parking; and requests administration clarify the issue of parking on boulevards in upcoming editions of the Cornhusk Chronicles and on social media so that Taber residents are forewarned prior to the Taber Police Service and town bylaw enforcement personnel commencing enforcement of the Traffic Safety Act provisions regarding such parking.
“It’s not something we’re probably going to be doing in the near future, simply because we don’t currently have a community peace officer to go around and deal with that stuff,” said Kehler. “But I do think it’s something we definitely need to look at, and when we go to these places we need to look at them, and not go with any preconceived notion as to what’s going on, just here’s the issue, how can we make it better? How can we clean up some of these parking issues? How can we clean up some of these boulevards? In some cases, we might end up having to put the curb back, because it should never have been removed in the first place.”