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'It's called the snitch law': Riverside couple upset over city order to remove curbside landscaping


A Riverside couple is upset after a recent visit from the city’s bylaw enforcement, asking them to remove landscaping on their front lawn after a resident complained that it doesn’t conform to the city’s public right-of-way encroachment bylaws.

The property in question has been in Beverley Holmes’ family since 1952.

“I've lived I grew up in this house. John and I took over the house when my parents passed away,” said Beverley Holmes out front of her Riverside home.

The landscaping, spanning from the curb to a few metres into their front lawn has been here for 35 years.

“And there has been no problem up until then,” said Beverley.

On May 3, the Holmes got a visit from the city with a notice to remove this landscaping from the city’s right of way, or bring it into compliance before May 31.

“The reason why we do this is largely safety driven. So it's sight lines or something that somebody could hit or cause injury as a result of those encroachments going in there,” said Mark Winterton, the city’s commissioner of infrastructure.

“It doesn't make sense. It doesn't. I don't think we're impeding anything to anybody. And I wish I wish that it would just go away. I'm too old for this,” said John Holmes.

According to Winterton, there are thousands of possible encroachments to the right of way in Windsor.

“We're not driving up and down the streets looking for these things,” Winterton said. “But if somebody complains, then we're going to be forced — duty bound — to act on them and make sure that they comply with the bylaws.”

Which means the city’s visit to the property was prompted by a complaint.

“It's called the snitch law. That's what it's called,” said Beverley.

“Yeah, it doesn't make for good neighbours. And that’s honestly that's how the city operates?” asked John.

Winterton explains the public right of way is about 20 metres wide and includes the roadway as well as underground utilities for the public good.

“Many people in the City of Windsor do not understand or know that the behind the curb, approximately 15 to 20 feet, is actually owned by the city as part of the right-of-way,” said Winterton.

The Holmes now have a few options:

  • -remove it entirely
  • -conform to the city’s best practices, which includes leaving a one-foot strip of grass along the curb and limiting the height of the bushes to three feet.
  • -apply for an encroachment permit at a cost of $899.

“And with that, we must supply a certificate of insurance which indemnifies the city should anybody trip or fall on one of those berms. $2 million, they want for insurance coverage,” said Beverley.

The Holmes also have the option of doing nothing.

“If they do not, then we will potentially be forced to remove it and put the cost to remove it onto their taxes,” said Winterton.

The Holmes have a short window to act and are weighing their options but want other residents to know all it takes is one complaint.

“For us to change things here and appease whatever it is that somebody has in their bonnet, doesn't make sense,” said John. “And I don't think the City of Windsor wants to be known as the as a city that is going to enforce this kind of stuff.”

For a list of the city’s best practices for landscaping in the public right-of-way, visit its website. Top Stories

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