Petrolia council may ease pool fencing rules


Most Petrolia councillors think the town’s pool fencing bylaw is too restrictive, but they can’t agree yet on how to change it.
Since 2009, the town has required all pools to have four sided fences – even if one of the sides mirrored the wall of a house. The council of the day wanted to make sure someone inside wouldn’t open a door and go into a pool when there was no one watching.
In April, Petrolia resident Wade Deighton told council he didn’t think a four-sided fence was necessary if a homeowner used the side of their house as one side. He suggested other safety features on the home’s door could be used, eliminating the extra fencing.
In a report to council, Petrolia North Enniskillen Fire Chief Lawrence Swift said many other municipalities are following Petrolia’s lead of the four sided pool fence adding it is now becoming an industry standard. The town’s insurance company questioned why the town would change the standard adding “We are not lawyers but I would think that perhaps a judge might rule against the town if you were to amend the bylaw and then an incident occurred causing bodily injury.”
But several councillors felt the bylaw is too restrictive.”Homeowners feel they don’t have control of their own homes because they are being so over regulated,” Councillor Ross O’Hara told council May 23. “What’s the next thing; you can’t have a bath tub in your home because someone might drown?”
Councillor Grant Purdy, a paramedic who has been on the scene of four pool deaths, says the biggest problem is parents who aren’t watching their kids, not fencing.
“Forty-six percent of drowning are in lakes, 12 percent in bath tubs and swimming pools is 10 percent,” he says adding in most cases “supervision is present but distracted.”
But Councillors Mary Pat Gleeson and Joel Field worried about the repercussions of changing the bylaw. “If I had to choose a backyard paradise over the child’s life, I’d choose the child’s life,” says Field.
“Part of my responsibility is to make sure our citizens are safe and particularly our children,” says Gleeson defending the current bylaw. “If there is the slightest possibility a child will go through a backyard, I can’t do it.”
But in the end, Mayor John McCharles agreed the current bylaw was too restrictive and people should have a choice.
“We can try to over-save people from danger,” he says adding when he put in a pool he had the extra fencing for safety reasons.
“It is another safety factor – but that would be a choice I would like to make myself.”
However, when Purdy suggested the town require alarms on the doors of the home, McCharles voted against the motion saying he didn’t believe that would be enough protection.
“Someone has to be available for the alarm to be heard.”
So for now, the bylaw remains as it is. Town staff will research alternatives to fencing and alarms and report back to council.