St Albert’s Unenforceable (or Unenforced?) Bylaws
This topic comes up more often that one might think, and in several iterations. It is on the minds of some of our residents, and may be recognized by others once disclosed. I agree with these residents that the topic is worth discussing.
Part of what must be considered is the true ability of the ‘system’ to enforce bylaws that don’t seem to be accepted by a large number of residents or those that define objects when it’s really associated behaviours that should be regulated. Or those that are simply outdated or irrelevant given a changed environment.
Councillor Russell is on record as asking for a review of the idling bylaw, in part because of the limitations in the regulation that define ‘acceptable’ outdoor idling temperatures that are not reasonable for our climate.
I’d add to that review. Residents have noted that while we are asked not to idle unnecessarily, the City has defeated the value of this effort by obstructing the smooth flow of traffic along many of our roadways. 24 hour dedicated protected left turns along the St Albert Trail has resulted in many (23,000 average daily at the north end by Costco and 41,000 as the Trail leaves south SA) vehicles now idling for an extra 15-20 minutes each day. The unnecessary exhaust load in the heart of our City’s environment is seen to be a serious contradiction to the idling bylaw intent.
Other examples are traffic lights which are not coordinated to any obvious ‘smooth flow’ purpose, suggesting poor planning or absent efficiency reviews. This may fit very well into the suggestion that lights in ‘off hour’ lower traffic areas should transition to flashing red/yellow to allow for continued safe movement of traffic.
Situations where a change of light sequence or other structural adjustment can positively effect idling time are the easy fixes. However, there is concern by our residents that we have to make some cultural changes as well before we can confidently state that our idling practices are as environmentally effective as is possible.
Residents have pointed at ‘drive throughs’ as a culture that defeats idling bylaw efforts. Others have pointed to our schools where many parents pick up their children and wait in idling vehicles, during most of the school months. Neither example is really enforceable, or at least - not enforced - in spite of being in contravention of the intent of the bylaw.
Another example relates to the dog bylaw. Off leash areas are clearly designated and well signed, but the remaining areas (that do not support off-leash) are used routinely by owners who let their dogs run free.
Residents are weary of dog feces around playground equipment, dogs urinating (as is their habit) markers on any conceivable target, and the unknown of unleashed large dogs approaching small children. All this where there is an expectation of a safe, clean play environment for children.
If there is enforcement for such bylaw offences, our residents are not aware of it. If there is little enforcement, or it is unenforceable, does retention of the bylaw have merit?
The bylaw definition of an acceptable dog leash is another example raised.
Specifically, the rule is:
“13(1)The owner of a dog shall at all times, when the dog is off the property of the owner or off the property where the dog has right of occupation, have the dog:
(a) under complete control; and
(b) held on a leash not exceeding two (2) metres in length.”
Which begs several questions:
Why does almost every related retail outlet in St Albert have ‘expandable’ leashes for sale? We don’t wish to impose any unnecessary constraint on the retail outlets, but it causes confusion for those St Albert residents shopping for a leash.
Why is an ‘article’ illegal, when the responsibilities of the dog owner (the bylaw might more accurately say ‘handler’) are so clearly defined? Can a dog be only ‘under complete control’ with a non-expandable leash? How can a 2 meter leash be considered the only method of ensuring a safe and compliant dog? If a handler is not able control their dog, 2 meters is still a significant reach and risk distance, particularly on a sidewalk.
It would appear that removal of the ‘2 meter leash’ clause would not impact the responsibility of the dog owner/handler, can be considered an unnecessary ‘bylaw’ feature and would allow the lawful and responsible use of an expandable leash.
There may be many more examples of ‘unnecessary or unenforceable bylaws’. I’ll keep track of those raised by our residents, and if there is room to clean up these and/or other bylaw offences that deserve such scrutiny, I will bring them forward.
Clearly, in the scope of all things important in St Albert governance, these are not the highest priorities. However, for those negatively impacted by a lack of certain enforcement, these issues deserve some respectful dialogue.