Bylaw officers need thick skins, reserves of patience
Greg Young has heard them all…a litany of gripes from Pelhamites.
“My neighbor refuses to split the cost of the property fence I’m building.”
“The squirrels are carrying nuts from trees on Town property and dropping them in our yard.”
His personal favourite: “The guy next door has a pond with frogs that croak all day and night…I want to lodge a noise complaint.”
The duties of a bylaw enforcement officer are rarely easy. Diplomacy and empathy are required skills. Young started in the job in 2017, but was just made full-time last year. He tries to deal with each situation in a pragmatic fashion.
“I can’t stop the coyotes from howling,” said Young. “They’re wild animals, they do what they do. You’ll hear bird bangers in the fall, as farmers try to protect their crops. And sometimes you get a whiff of manure, or cannabis. In town, your neighbor can legally cultivate up to four marijuana plants. And the big industrial grow-ops are federally-licensed. All I can do is explain the bylaws.”
Of course, Young deals with blatant violations as well. If your backyard rock concert is still blaring at 11 PM, expect Young on your doorstep the next day (or perhaps a Niagara Regional Police officer there that night). Building a 10-foot fence around your property? The bylaw says six feet is the maximum height for residential neighborhoods, unless you have obtained a variance.
“Talk to your neighbors and give them a heads up that you’re going be doing something…planting trees on the property line, having a party, whatever. Have some common courtesy.”
Young has not yet experienced a situation in which tempers escalated to the point that a resident made threats, but he acknowledged that it can happen.
“If some guy starts to get very irate and physically intimidating, you just have to say, ‘Hey, pal, don’t go there,’” said Young. “The police are only a phone call away.”
Summers are busy with pool inspections, fire pit permits, parking enforcement, and complaints about long grass and weeds on neighbouring properties. And of course, cannabis odour testing, which Young now responds to with the Town’s new odour measurement device, the Nasal Ranger. In winter, it’s primarily calls about cars on streets, blocking plow routes.