Oak Bay strives to be a walkable community and the district takes the opportunity of tax time to remind residents of their obligations to keep sidewalks clear for pedestrians.
“Residents are obligated to keep vegetation cut back to the curb’s edge,” said Chris Hyde-Lay, manager of parks services for Oak Bay. “Sidewalks have to be kept clear. We want people to have access.”
The letter that goes to every resident is a gentle reminder to clear impeding and hazardous trees, hedges and bushes, as outlined by district bylaws. It includes an eight-foot overhead clearance.
It’s primarily an effort to keep the community pedestrian friendly by making walkways safe and easy to use, but there are also safety concerns. The bylaw provides for resident removal of trees and bushes causing visibility issues for vehicle and bicycle users, among other things.
As with many municipal bylaws, enforcement is complaint-driven and Hyde-Lay responds to about five such complaints a week, specifically related to vegetation encroaching on municipal walkways.
He visits each reported site and if action is warranted, crafts a letter outlining the concerns and remedies required. He allows time for a response, welcoming phone calls to answer any questions.
“We strive to work together,” he said. However, the bylaw entitles Oak Bay to take required action if a property owner remains non-compliant five days after being served a letter outlining the issues and prescribing action.
Oak Bay has rarely gone so far as to enforce a fine or do the work and charge it back to an owner.
They’d far prefer to offer advice and direction, said Hyde-Lay.
“If you’re planning on planting along the property line, give your plant selection a lot of thought,” he suggests.
Anyone uncertain of their obligations is welcome to call the parks office at 250-592-7275.