Item - 2021.PH24.3

Tracking Status

PH24.3 - Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity

Decision Type:
ACTION
Status:
Amended
Wards:
All

City Council Decision

City Council on July 14, 15 and 16, 2021, adopted the following:

 

1.  City Council amend City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds as follows:

 

Maximum height of turfgrass

 

1. Add the following definition for turfgrass to Section 489-1:

 

TURFGRASS: Ground cover of various perennial grasses grown for lawns, of a type that forms a dense, uniform turf if mown.

 

2. Amend Section 489-2 by:

 

a. replacing the term "grass and weeds" with the term "turfgrass" so that the height requirement applies to turfgrass;

 

b. deleting the requirement for removing grass cuttings;

 

c. requiring that turfgrass be cut when it exceeds 20 centimeters in length, in addition to height; and

 

d. deleting subsection B which described "grass and weeds."

 

Removing the natural garden exemption

 

3. Delete the natural garden exemption process in Section 489-3E.

 

Maintenance requirements

 

4. Add a new section 489-2.1 as follows:

 

The owner or occupant of private land shall maintain all vegetative growth on their land according to the following requirements:

 

a. private land shall be kept free of any prohibited plant species designated under the By-law;

 

b. vegetative growth on private land shall not obstruct sidewalks or roadways;

 

c. vegetative growth on private land shall not restrict driver and pedestrian sight lines at intersections, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, or visibility to all traffic control devices; and

 

d. any other conditions respecting health and safety as the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards considers advisable.

 

5. Add a new Schedule A with a list of prohibited plant species as below; and it is recommended that staff review the list on an ongoing basis, in consultation with experts to ensure accuracy and relevance:

 

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)

 

Common buckthorn; Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica; Frangula alnus)

 

Dog-strangling vine (Cynanchum rossicum; Cynanchum louiseae)

 

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

 

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

 

Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica var. japonica)

 

Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis)

 

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

 

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

 

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

 

Offences

 

6. Update the notice, failure to comply and offence provisions to enable the City of Toronto to conduct inspections, issue orders for compliance, take remedial action and take any other enforcement activities consistent with the authorities in the City of Toronto Act, 2006, including:

 

a.  increasing the maximum fine to $100,000;

 

b. adding a special fine in an amount equal to any economic gain obtained from non-compliance;

 

c. including offences for obstruction and failure to provide information as required; and

 

d. designating each offence as a continuing offence.

 

By-law name

 

7. Change the name of the City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Turfgrass and Prohibited Plants and update references to the name, as necessary.

 

2. City Council amend City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 27, Council Procedures to remove natural garden exemptions from the matters delegated to Community Councils in Section 27-18.4., Delegation to Community Councils.

 

3. City Council direct that the amendments to City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapters 489, Grass and Weeds and 27, Council Procedures, described in Parts 1 and 2 above come into effect on January 1, 2022.

 

4. City Council direct the City Solicitor to prepare the necessary Bill(s) required to give effect to City Council's decision and to make any necessary minor substantive or stylistic refinements as may be identified by the City Solicitor.

 

5. City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to report to the Planning and Housing Committee by the fourth quarter of 2021 on establishing a framework to ensure an automatic investigation of properties each year that have received more than one notice of violation under City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds within two consecutive calendar years, including any complaints dating back to January 1, 2019.

 

6. City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to monitor the compliance and enforcement of the turfgrass rules in City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds and to report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee within 18 months with any necessary amendments to ensure By-law effectiveness.

Public Notice Given

Background Information (Committee)

(May 6, 2021) Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards on Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167233.pdf
Attachment 1 - Recommended Prohibited Plant Species
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167234.pdf
(May 13, 2021) Public Notice
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167232.pdf

Background Information (City Council)

(July 7, 2021) Supplementary report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards on Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity (PH24.3b)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-169205.pdf

Communications (Committee)

(May 17, 2021) E-mail from Greg Knittl (PH.Main)
(May 17, 2021) E-mail from Peter Welsh (PH.Main)
(May 17, 2021) E-mail from Fiona Green (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Molly Stollmeyer (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Caitlin Cassie (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Adrienne Law (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from A. Pope (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Whitney Kemble (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Lorraine Johnson submitting a communication from nine subject matter experts (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Harold Smith (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) Letter from David Donnelly, Donnelly Law (PH.Main)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/comm/communicationfile-132170.pdf
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Nina-Marie Lister (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Janet Harrison (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Gabrielle Doiron (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) Letter from Peter Ewins et al (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from John Gibb (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Karen Yukich (PH.Main)
(May 20, 2021) E-mail from Karen Heinz (PH.Main)
(May 20, 2021) Letter from Toronto Nature Stewards (PH.Main)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/comm/communicationfile-132173.pdf
(June 10, 2021) Letter from Douglas Counter (PH.New)
(June 10, 2021) E-mail from Deborah Dale (PH.New)

Communications (City Council)

(July 12, 2021) E-mail from Greg Knittl (CC.Supp)
(July 13, 2021) E-mail from Deborah Dale (CC.Supp)

Motions (City Council)

1 - Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Stephen Holyday (Carried)

That:

 

1. City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to monitor the compliance and enforcement of turfgrass rules in Chapter 489, Turfgrass and Prohibited Plants, and to report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee within 18 months with any necessary amendments to ensure by-law effectiveness.


2 - Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor John Filion (Carried)

That City Council direct the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to report to the Planning and Housing Committee by the fourth quarter of 2021 on establishing a framework to ensure an automatic investigation of properties each year that have received more than one notice of violation under Municipal Code, Chapter 489, within two consecutive calendar years, including any complaints dating back to January 1, 2019.


Motion to Adopt Item as Amended (Carried)

3a - Supplementary Report - Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity

Background Information (Committee)
(June 7, 2021) Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards on Supplementary Report - Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167885.pdf

PH24.3 - Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity

Decision Type:
ACTION
Status:
Amended
Wards:
All

Public Notice Given

Committee Recommendations

The Planning and Housing Committee recommends that:  

 

1.  City Council amend City of Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds, as follows:

 

Maximum height of turfgrass

1. Add the following definition for turfgrass to section 489-1:

 

TURFGRASS: Ground cover of various perennial grasses grown for lawns, of a type that forms a dense, uniform turf if mown.

 

2. Amend section 489-2 by:

 

a. replacing the term "grass and weeds" with the term "turfgrass" so that the height requirement applies to turfgrass;

b. deleting the requirement for removing grass cuttings;

c. requiring that turfgrass be cut when it exceeds 20 centimeters in length, in addition to height; and

d. deleting subsection B which described "grass and weeds."

 

Removing the natural garden exemption

 

3. Deleting the natural garden exemption process in section 489-3E.

 

Maintenance requirements

 

4. Add a new section 489-2.1 as follows:

 

The owner or occupant of private land shall maintain all vegetative growth on their land according to the following requirements:

 

a.  Private land shall be kept free of any prohibited plant species designated under the Bylaw;

b.  Vegetative growth on private land shall not obstruct sidewalks or roadways;

c.  Vegetative growth on private land shall not restrict driver and pedestrian sight lines at intersections, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, or visibility to all traffic control devices; and

d.  Any other conditions respecting health and safety as the Executive Director considers advisable.

 

5. Add a new Schedule A with a list of prohibited plant species as below. It is recommended that staff review the list on an ongoing basis, in consultation with experts to ensure accuracy and relevance.

 

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Common buckthorn; Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica; Frangula alnus)

Dog-strangling vine (Cynanchum rossicum; Cynanchum louiseae)

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica var. japonica)

Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis)

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

 

Offences

 

6. Update the notice, failure to comply and offence provisions to enable the City to conduct inspections, issue orders for compliance, take remedial action and take any other enforcement activities consistent with the authorities in the City of Toronto Act, 2006, including:

 

a.  Increasing the maximum fine to $100,000;

b.  Adding a special fine in an amount equal to any economic gain obtained from non-compliance;

c.  Including offences for obstruction and failure to provide information as required; and

d.  Designating each offence as a continuing offence.

 

Bylaw name

 

7. Change the name of the City of Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 489 to Turfgrass and Prohibited Plants, and update references to the name as necessary.

 

2. City Council amend Chapter 27, Council Procedures to remove natural garden exemptions from the matters delegated to community councils in § 27-18.4. Delegation to Community Councils.

 

3. City Council direct that the amendments to City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds, and Chapter 27, Council Procedures, described in Recommendations 1 and 2 above come into effect January 1, 2022.

 

4. City Council direct the City Solicitor to prepare the necessary bill(s) required to give effect to Council's decision and to make any necessary minor substantive or stylistic refinements as may be identified by the City Solicitor.

Decision Advice and Other Information

The Planning and Housing Committee:

 

1.  Requested the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to report directly to City Council to address the stakeholder concerns identified in the communications to the Planning and Housing Committee.

Origin

(May 6, 2021) Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards

Summary

This report provides an overview of the current process for obtaining a natural garden exemption as outlined in Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds, and recommends bylaw amendments to modernize regulations, streamline enforcement efforts, and enhance public education to support the City of Toronto's efforts to protect pollinators and biodiversity.

 

The review of Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds was initiated by staff following a report from the Ombudsman in 2018 that outlined concerns with the operational processes for responding to long grass and weeds complaints and issuing natural garden exemptions. However, this work was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This report also responds to Action 8 of Toronto's Biodiversity Strategy, which calls on the City to review policies and bylaws, including Chapter 489, for opportunities to support biodiversity. The City received significant feedback from stakeholders and the public in fall 2020 about the bylaw, including concerns that the natural garden exemption process does not support the goals of other City of Toronto polices and strategies, including the Biodiversity Strategy, Pollinator Protector Strategy, and Toronto Ravine Strategy.

 

As part of this review, staff undertook a consultation process that received 455 emails from residents, interested organizations and community groups, and held a series of roundtables with subject matter experts in the fields of botany and biodiversity. Staff also conducted a jurisdictional scan of best practices, an analysis of complaints and enforcement, and worked closely with interdivisional partners responsible for the City's biodiversity and pollinator strategies.

 

In response to the issues identified through this review, this report recommends removing the process for natural garden exemptions and amending the bylaw to require that all properties meet maintenance requirements that focus on health and safety, such as prohibiting specific plant species, managing the height of turfgrass, and ensuring that sightlines are not obstructed.

 

The proposed list of prohibited plants was developed in consultation with internal partners and external stakeholders to support ecological and human health. Staff recognize that maintaining such a list must be done in a way that is responsive to change, and therefore recommend that it be reviewed on an ongoing basis, in consultation with subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and relevance.

 

Staff also recommend renaming the bylaw to better reflect the changes proposed in this report, modernizing enforcement provisions, and strengthening public education and communications to support the City's biodiversity efforts.

 

This report was written in consultation with Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Environment and Energy Division, Toronto Public Health, City Planning, City Clerk's Office, Transportation Services, and Legal Services.

Background Information

(May 6, 2021) Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards on Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167233.pdf
Attachment 1 - Recommended Prohibited Plant Species
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167234.pdf
(May 13, 2021) Public Notice
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167232.pdf

Communications

(May 17, 2021) E-mail from Greg Knittl (PH.Main)
(May 17, 2021) E-mail from Peter Welsh (PH.Main)
(May 17, 2021) E-mail from Fiona Green (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Molly Stollmeyer (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Caitlin Cassie (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Adrienne Law (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from A. Pope (PH.Main)
(May 18, 2021) E-mail from Whitney Kemble (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Lorraine Johnson submitting a communication from nine subject matter experts (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Harold Smith (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) Letter from David Donnelly, Donnelly Law (PH.Main)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/comm/communicationfile-132170.pdf
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Nina-Marie Lister (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Janet Harrison (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Gabrielle Doiron (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) Letter from Peter Ewins et al (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from John Gibb (PH.Main)
(May 19, 2021) E-mail from Karen Yukich (PH.Main)
(May 20, 2021) E-mail from Karen Heinz (PH.Main)
(May 20, 2021) Letter from Toronto Nature Stewards (PH.Main)
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/comm/communicationfile-132173.pdf
(June 10, 2021) Letter from Douglas Counter (PH.New)
(June 10, 2021) E-mail from Deborah Dale (PH.New)

Speakers

Greg Knittl
Douglas Counter
Lorraine Johnson
Denisa Mertiri
Nina-Marie Lister, Ryerson University, School of Urban Planning, Ecological Design Lab
Deborah Dale

Motions

1 - Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Ana Bail„o (Carried)

That:

 

1. The Planning and Housing Committee amend Recommendation 1, Part 5, of the report (May 6, 2021) from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, which proposes adding a new Schedule A with a list of prohibited plant species to Chapter 489, by removing Common burdock (Arctium minus) and Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) from that list.


2 - Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Ana Bail„o (Carried)

That:

 

1.  The Planning and Housing Committee request the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to report directly to City Council to address the stakeholder concerns identified in the communications to the Planning and Housing Committee.


3 - Motion to Adopt Item as Amended moved by Councillor Ana Bail„o (Carried)

3a - Supplementary Report - Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity

Origin
(June 7, 2021) Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards
Summary

This is a supplementary report for Item PH24.3 Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity. This report, written in partnership with Parks, Forestry and Recreation, recommends amending the proposed list of prohibited plant species to be added as a new Schedule in Chapter 489. It is recommended that Common burdock (Arctium minus) and Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) be removed from that list.

Background Information
(June 7, 2021) Report from the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards on Supplementary Report - Modernizing Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds to Streamline Processes and Support Biodiversity
https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/ph/bgrd/backgroundfile-167885.pdf
Source: Toronto City Clerk at www.toronto.ca/council