Morinville – A month and a half after receiving first reading, Council gave unanimous third and final reading to the Town’s new Traffic Safety Bylaw at the Jan. 22 Council meeting.
Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations, David Schaefer, had asked that the new bylaw be given one reading per meeting to ensure it had everything it needed and was written in a clear and concise manner.
The Town received a number of questions from the community, particularly through the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce on different aspects of the bylaw, and made several amendments based on public input.
After spending an hour debating its various elements at second reading Jan. 8, Council spent another 80 minutes going over the revisions prior to third reading.
Minor modifications to the revised bylaw include a condensed definition on helmets in response to criticism from Councillor David Pattison that the previous definition had gone into too much detail in terms of measurements and other specifications. The new definition simply ensures helmets used are in keeping with industry standards. Other defining measures include examples of what a mobility device is, what constitutes a trailer, and what meets the definition of a wheeled apparatus.
In response to concerns from Councillor Lisa Holmes on riding bicycles on sidewalks and trails, the revised bylaw has now been simplified to include sidewalks as part of walkways and trails. It now omits reference to bike tire size as a determination of who may ride on the sidewalk, something that had concerned Holmes as her children’s bike tires exceeded the size previously allowed in the second draft.
Schaefer said there was additional concern from parents who want to ride on the sidewalk with their young children. “It was a good conversation and we are now recommending the focus be changed,” Schaefer said, adding the focus is now to ensure those using wheeled apparatus – anything from a bicycle to a stroller – are not doing so in a reckless manner. “If it was deemed unsafe, it’s against the bylaw. In talking to the Peace Officers, it was felt this was a fairer way.”
Councillor Nicole Boutestein expressed concern that the bylaw leaves the determination to a Community Peace Officer who may be having a bad day and using that in their determination of what constitutes reckless behaviour. “Your idea of reckless and his idea of reckless could be eight different things,” Boutestein said. “I’m not sure I like that it is in the Peace Officer’s opinion.” Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun defended the revision and said policies and bylaws have to be developed that deal with majority situations. “You’ve got to leave some of that discretion with enforcement, understanding … there are higher levels they have to be accountable to,” she said.
The revised bylaw now simply prohibits anyone from operating a wheeled apparatus “in a reckless manner on a sidewalk which in the opinion of a Peace Officer would be seen as causing a risk to other pedestrians.” Under the revised version signage will now be posted where bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks as opposed to the other way around.
Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs
But bike signage was not the only signage rules to be amended. Election signs caused a couple Council feathers to ruffle at second reading; particularly those of Councillor David Pattison who felt the rules limited where candidates could place their signs come election time. Schaefer said amendments were made to bring the Traffic Safety Bylaw’s sign passages in keeping with Morinville’s Land Use Bylaw.
The bylaw still maintains a 3-metre setback for signs from the highway edge but adds the caveat that when a landowner’s property line goes to the edge of the roadway, it simply must conform with the Town’s existing Land Use Bylaw. Likewise, the pre-existing distance from an intersection will be maintained in the interests of safety. “It should not distract the driver in any way,” Schaefer said of the signage, adding crosswalks are known to be problematic in Morinville and it is important to ensure drivers are not distracted from watching for pedestrians crossing the road.
But there were some amendments on election signs. At second reading election signs could be no more than 3 metres square. In speaking with the Alberta Portable Sign Association, administration learned 5 metres squared was the more common standard industry. The bylaw was amended to reflect that recommendation, opening the door for some larger election real estate come the fall.
Council spent considerable time discussing different aspects of snow removal in the bylaw before giving it the final green light.
Schaefer said the timeline of 24 hours for residents to remove snow from their sidewalks was increased to 72 hours to allow residents time to remove the snow; particularly those who use contracted services.
Councillor Lisa Holmes raised concerns with the increase in time and said she felt the increase was actually giving people a week. Current enforcement is complaint driven. On investigating the complaint, Peace Officers issue a letter giving the resident another 72 hours before the Town can have someone remove the snow and bill the resident. “The 72 hours is not 72 hours,” Holmes said, adding the resident has 72 hours to remove the snow, but another 72 hours after the complaint is responded to, giving the resident nearly a week.
She also expressed the view a fine of $80 for a first offence was not enough incentive for some to ensure their walkways are clear. No decision was made on increasing the fine from the current $80 on a first offence.
But some felt residents should be able to shovel theIr snow from their walks and driveways onto Town streets. Councillor Gordon Boddez advocated for letting residents put their driveway snow on the roads. “This bylaw is indicating you have to put your snow on your property,” he said. “We have properties with zero lot lines. Putting it on the street is an issue for some people in this community [because] they can’t do it.”
After some debate, an amendment was made allowing snow to be shovelled on the road where no other option exists. This could apply to some businesses on 100 Avenue and 100 Street as well as those residential lots where there is simply no yard space to pile snow.
Schaefer said he was pleased to have the Traffic Safety Bylaw passed and equally pleased with the input from the public and Council.
“One of the things that I enjoyed was Council asked the questions,” Schaefer said. “Generally they ask the questions the public is going to ask. This is where I also appreciated the Chamber [of Commerce] getting it out there too. We did receive a whack load of comments from them.”
Schaefer is also pleased the bylaw took a slower process through three separate readings, something that allowed a lot of discussion and a lot of input on the final document. “Because of the questions and because of the opportunity of it being displayed in the papers, it brought forward a lot more questions and input. When there is such an in-depth review required, I think giving the opportunity to take the time and spread this out has created a unique bylaw.”
With the Traffic Safety Bylaw now official Town law, the Town of Morinville will begin educating residents as to its contents. The bylaw will be placed on the Town website and administration will be meeting with school divisions and the Traffic Advisory Committee to discuss the regulations as it affects them as well as promoting the bylaw through Town of Morinville communications channels.