This week we made some great steps forward to permitting residents to garden in the City’s Right of Way (ROW) and legitimize the placement of Free Little Libraries.
These discussions came in connection to the suggested update to the City’s Use and Care of Roads By-law. As mentioned last week, the By-law update addresses the City’s ROW. The ROW includes the roadway, as well as sidewalks and boulevards just beyond it. There is a portion in front of your residence that is City owned, but you are asked to maintain it. The rules and restrictions around the City’s ROW are in place with a refence to what is below ground, as well as considerations of drainage.
I want to thank staff for all their work in re-examining the ROW By-law, this is a great step forward in helping residents transition to more natural gardens.
We want to make sure that everyone knows this good news and promote this change. I have asked staff to not only explain the new rules to residents, but to ensure that we’re encouraging residents to garden in the City’s ROW, particularly to create pollinator gardens.
The more we can encourage residents to naturalize the spaces the more beneficial is it from an environmental perspective. With the declared climate emergency, promoting pollinator gardens that will help with the important work of making sure insects and birds are able to pollinate, this keeps them in the area to pollinate our fruit and vegetable crops.
I am in support of residents being able to grow food in the City’s ROW and will be looking forward to hearing back on the Ontario Public Health report on this, as well as City Staff’s recommendations going forward. This will happen in Q2 of 2024. Staff will also make comment on the use of planter boxes and “soft landscaping” in connection to this, as well as the planting of fruit trees in the right of way.
As a Council we passed the motion put forward by Councillor’s Menard and Brockington regarding restrictions for plantings in the ROW be imposed at 1 meter rather than 0.75 meters, aside from visibility triangles and as already otherwise specified around City infrastructure like hydrants, hydro poles, and bus stops. While Staff did not support this, Council voted in favour, and this will be the new height restriction rule for planting in the City’s right of way, and is in line with many other Cities across Canada.
We also discussed “Little Libraries”, and I supported the motion from Councillors Gower and Leiper to expand the type of streets they are allowed on to include not just local streets, but also collector streets. I also supported the motion from Councillor Johnson, that would allow these to be placed within 0.5m of the curb line, rather than the originally recommended 1.0m. This update to the by-law will legitimize an activity many residents across the City have already constructed, but will also open the door for others, should they also like to participate.
It is wonderful to see us making progress and expanding the idea of what the City’s ROW can be used for. I will be looking forward to further discussions related to growing food next year.
Next week we’ll be receiving an update at Planning and Housing Committee on Staff’s progress with the Zoning By-law update. Staff released the Neighbourhood Form and Function Discussion Papers in March 2023, and there will be four public open houses, as well as pop-up events throughout the City to engage with residents on the by-law changes. We expect to see a final “As We Heard It” report in early 2024.