A family in Smiths Falls, Ont., has been embroiled in a dispute with the town’s bylaw department over the state of their front yard.
Their ‘naturalized’ lawn drew heat from the town, but it appears the tide is turning in favour of the couple.
This isn’t your typical front yard.
The Sinclair family has what is called a ‘naturalized’ lawn, where they have planted different types of plants to attract animals like birds and squirrels, all while enriching plant life on their property.
“The biodiversity difference, with the amount of insects, butterflies and moths that are dependent upon the trees, the trees are pretty rare in town. So we’re intentionally planting endangered species as well,” said Craig Sinclair.
Along with attracting animals, the yard also attracted the attention of Smiths Falls bylaw after complaints were filed with the town about the appearance of the Sinclair’s unique yard.
Neighbours who spoke with Global News didn’t want to be interviewed on camera but said they had mixed feelings about the yard at first. However, they admit it looks better now that some shrubs have been growing amidst the woodchips.
“These visits continued. More complaints from neighbours. As the complaints continued, bylaw kept visiting, but I was always able to explain why we were doing what we were doing,” he added.
However, bylaw ended up giving the Sinclairs a notice of violation last fall, so they got a lawyer.
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Eventually the violation notice was rescinded before it ever got to court.
Their lawyer, David Donnelly, told Global News in a statement:
“Municipalities like Smiths Falls still don’t get it. The notice of violation issued to the Sinclairs was wrong in law, profoundly ignorant, a waste of time and taxpayers money.”
He went on to say he thinks Smiths Falls should be held accountable for issuing and then withdrawing the charges.
Now, the town is reviewing their bylaw requirements to ‘include’ naturalized lawns.
Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow told Global News that he was pleased the town rescinded the order, and believes there are “real merits” to naturalization.
“Other cases, Sandy Bell and Douglas Counter, previous cases that were clear that naturalization was part of freedom of expression. My ability to express how I felt about the environment, and a spiritual sense of how I want to express myself with my own property,” said Sinclair.
The bylaw review is currently in the public consultation phase, and Mayor Pankow says the majority of the feedback on naturalization has been positive.