Alvinston man miffed at timing of bylaw blitz

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Greg Hillyard says the timing couldn’t be worse for Brooke-Alvinston to enforce its pool fencing bylaw.
The Alvinston area man received a letter in the mail recently saying his above ground pool doesn’t comply with the town’s bylaw and needs a fence.
The letter, signed by Clerk Administrator Janet Denkers, tells him his pool must be fenced by May 22, one month after the letter was written.
If he doesn’t, the letter says, he could face fines of about $125 for a number of different infractions.
Hillyard admits he “just went nuts” when he saw the letter.
“I have no problem bringing it up to code – we could argue whether it is reasonable to have a fence around an above ground pool, but short of running in the next election and changing it, the bylaw is the bylaw.”
But Hillyard says the timing is not good. With the country in the middle of a pandemic and businesses every where struggling, asking people to pay for a fence – estimated at $400 – and a $250 building permit is likely to stretch some people’s ability to pay.
“My wife and I are in an financial position…that we can do this. We have the means although it is going to kick our ass, the building permit alone is $250.”
But Hillyard says Denkers told him there was a blitz to find pools without fences and 15 others received the same letter.
“I can bet there are some people who will have to chose between paying for the building permit or buying groceries this month.”
And he says the timing is bad. It’s planting season for farmers so finding the time in the next month to put up the fence might be difficult. And Hillyard is not even sure he could hire someone right now because he’s not sure fencing is considered an essential service.
Both Councillor Frank Nemcek and Mayor Dave Ferguson suggested there may be room to give an extension but Hillyard says no one put it in writing.
Ferguson tells The Independent says town staff did investigate to find pools without fencing which has been required since council passed a bylaw in 2011 – five years after the province mandated fences for pools. He says the blitz was not at the direction of council.
“Sooner or later it is the job of staff to make sure all bylaws were up to date…At no time when the inventory was taken did anybody trespass. It was all done from the roadside,’ he says. Some of the people who have received the notice were concerned the municipality had to trespass to examine whether the pool had a fence or not.
When questioned about the timing of the letter – during a pandemic when obtaining contractors or building supplies may not be as easy and money may be tighter than usual – Ferguson says the letters had to go out sometime especially since the pool season is coming soon.
Ferguson adds the municipality and Lambton County building officials are not difficult to work with “if initiative is shown” by the homeowner to try to get the work done.
“Nothing is automatic. Initiative has to be shown, progress has to be shown…Everybody is at home. Everyone has telephones…there are different hardware stores that are open.
“You can be getting pricing from contractors; things can be shown that you are getting ready to do this … showing an honest effort and some documentation.”
Hillyard suggested that the building fees be waived so people can get the fences up – Ferguson didn’t answer that request directly saying only the bylaw is meant to keep everyone safe.
“The bylaws were recommended by the pool associations and the firemen’s association; because if there is a fire, you could go into a pool with the full bunker gear on.”