Ottawa

Driveway bylaw 'a blunt instrument,' Barrhaven residents say

Residents of a Barrhaven subdivision who have widened their driveways with interlocking stone have been instructed to return them to the approved width or face fines.

Only those who've been subject of complaints forced to tear up stonework

Marilyn Fairfull has been given until August 2023 to remove paving stones that were added to create a walkway at the edge of the driveway in front of her Barrhaven home. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Residents of Ottawa's Barrhaven subdivision who have widened their driveways with interlocking stone have been instructed to return them to the approved width or face fines.

However, it seems only those homeowners who have been the subject of specific complaints to the city's bylaw department will be required to make the costly changes.

That's despite the fact that a large number of homeowners in the area of Fallowfield Road and Strandherd Drive have added the stone walkways, which make it possible to park two vehicles side by side.

I came out of the house to find she was measuring the walkway.- Marilyn Fairfull

Marilyn Fairfull, 70, said she was surprised last November to glance out the front window of her Peerless Street bungalow and see a City of Ottawa bylaw officer crouching in her driveway, reading a tape measure.

"I came out of the house to find she was measuring the walkway," Fairfull recalled.

The City of Ottawa permits a walkway of up to 1.8 metres in width to be constructed next to a driveway, so long as it isn't used for parking. (Stu Mills/CBC)

The officer issued Fairfull a notice of violation and informed her that the neat, colour-matched paving stones that had been professionally installed in 2018 would have to be removed by Aug. 12. She asked for and received an extension until August 2023.

"She said we are not to park there, that there had been a complaint," said Fairfull.

Fairfull believes the complainant is a neighbour with whom she and her 77-year-old husband have had an ongoing dispute about dogs. Fairfull said the couple widened their driveway in case either of them needs to use a wheelchair in the future.

Though Julian Dumanski's interlock walkway was installed nine years ago, he was ordered last month to make it about one metre narrower. (Stu Mills/CBC)

'How is that fair?'

The Fairfulls are reluctant to pay the nearly $3,000 it will cost to have a variance considered, nor do they want to pay workers to pull up the stones when so many of their neighbours have widened their driveways.

"How is that fair when other people continue to have a walkway the same width, or to park on their walkway, and we are the ones being targeted?" she asked.

"And I don't feel that this is going to stop here," added Fairfull, who believes the city's complaints-based bylaw enforcement system rewards "bullies" who snitch to city hall.

CBC News attempted to contact the neighbour whom Fairfull suspects of complaining, but did not receive a response.

City planner Carol Ruddy said the cumulative effect of widened driveways means smaller lawns, fewer trees and ultimately, hotter suburbs. (Stu Mills/CBC)

In an email, Roger Chapman, the city's director of bylaw and regulatory services, said the department was right to enforce the rule, which permits a walkway 1.8 metres wide next to a driveway, so long as it is not used for parking. 

Carol Ruddy, a city planner with the department of zoning and intensification, said driveway width must be controlled to allow for proper drainage, winter snow storage and adequate on-street parking.

Ruddy acknowledged that while the bylaw provisions may "seem overly prescriptive," the cumulative effect of wider driveways means smaller lawns, fewer trees and ultimately, hotter suburbs.

Resident says bylaws unfairly applied when it comes to too-wide walkway

1 month ago
Duration 2:12
Barrhaven resident Marilyn Fairfull says she and her husband had a walkway installed in anticipation of future mobility needs, but city bylaw officers have told them to reduce its width or face fines.

'A blunt instrument'

However, along Peerless Street, Hibiscus Way and Bamburgh Way, many homes boast liberally widened driveways, and some have stamped concrete pads where there would otherwise be lawn. At one home across the street from the Fairfulls, a car was parked entirely on the grass.

Nevertheless, Julian Dumanski, who has added trees and flowers to his property since moving in nine years ago, has also been ordered to tear up the interlocking stone that makes his driveway about one metre too wide. He has until Aug. 31.

At other homes in the neighbourhood, the heat-mitigating measures of grass and trees have been removed entirely. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Dumanski, 82, also believes the bylaw is being applied unfairly.

"It's being applied as a blunt instrument," said the former Agriculture Canada soil scientist, who doesn't know who complained about his professionally laid paving stones.

"I'm sure bylaw has much more important things to do than this."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stu Mills

CBC Ottawa reporter

You can reach Stu Mills by email at stu.mills@cbc.ca.

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