A comprehensive review of the Open Space Area bylaw has recently been completed. The review included internal stakeholder review and analysis as well as a review of open space/parks bylaws from other communities. The review and update of the bylaw was intended to provide Administration additional tools to help balance competing use and priorities for open space areas as well as providing clearity and a better reflection of current community use of Open Space.
The existing Open Space Area Bylaw was last updated in 2015. The update at that time was administrative in nature. A number of definitions were updated, smoking was restricted in playgrounds, sport fields and off leash areas and the fines were adjusted. Administration believes the proposed bylaw as presented provides the required tools to adequately balance use and meet community expectations and will help the City deliver efficient Open Space opportunities to residents into the future.
The proposed bylaw is not intended to drastically change the intent of the existing Open Space Area Bylaw. Instead, the update is intended to protect the free and spontaneous use of open space areas, while providing the framework for a clear system to approve, deny and manage other uses and demands on open space areas. The health and safety of residents, use and protection of public infrastructure, and the impact of park-use on the greater community was all taken into account when reviewing and updating the Open Space Area Bylaw.
The form of the bylaw was amended to group similar ideas and concepts together while redundant clauses or phrases were removed. The following are the substantive changes that would have significant policy or public impact:
Open Space Permit - section 6
The proposed changes move away from the existing Open Space Area Bylaw approach that requires City Manager approval for any regulated activity and instead establishes an open space permit. The open space permit is defined as, “the written permission, in a form approved by the City Manager, to undertake an Activity in an Open Space Area that is otherwise regulated, restricted or prohibited by this bylaw”. This would include rental contracts, lease agreements, licenses, written permission or any other form of permission required. The current system often created confusion as to who has the authority to approve certain activities and under what conditions. The changes maintain the City Manager as having ultimate authority, but the assumption would be that the authority to grant Open Space Permits would be delegated to the General Manager of Community and Protective Services and integrated into the Recreation Services core functions.
Loiter - section 11.7
This section provides a tool to allow a Peace Officer to approach an individual to ascertain the reason and purpose of the individual’s intentions for being in an open space area. This section is not directed towards the general public, but towards individuals who may be engaging in illegal activities or have no clear purpose for being in an open space area.
Leaving an open space area when directed - section 11.6
Based on feedback from Council during the October 19, 2020 Committee of the Whole meeting, section 11.6 has been reviewed. It has been determined that when a Peace Officer is enforcing any part of this or any other bylaw, they have an inherent responsibility to inform the individual of the reason of the enforcement. This is a procedural requirement related to enforcement and not a requirement for a specific clause or wording within a bylaw. No changes were made to the proposed bylaw.
Developments - section 14.1 (d)
The proposed bylaw includes a requirement for an individual to secure an open space permit, prior to undertaking any developments on open space lands. This is intended to be the ‘approval’ for a third party development on open space lands. Previously, there was not a clear mechanism to gain approval for a development without seeking the City Manager's approval. This has resulted in developments being added by the community on public lands, in some cases without agreements or unknown to City staff. In some cases the developments have caused damage to public assets and exposed the City to risk. Vegetation was also added to the definition of developments as an effort to manage inappropriate private planting on public land.
All reference to smoking restrictions were removed from the Open Space Area Bylaw as all smoking is now regulated in the City's Smoking Bylaw.
Open Space Area Definition - section 2.19
The proposed amendment to the open space definition provides clarity and a greater scope of what is considered open space. Added to the definition is natural areas, storm water management facilities, pathways (the existing bylaw only include Heritage Grove trails), off leash parks and all exterior areas of City owned or operated facilities that are available to the public for recreation or social purposes.
For consistency, all parking restrictions were removed from the Open Space Area Bylaw as parking is regulated in the traffic bylaw.
Storm Water Management Facilities - section 11.4 and 11.5
Storm water management facilities were defined and added to the bylaw to restrict public access and use.
Events - section 10
Events were defined and added to the bylaw. The events section requires any event or exclusive use of an athletic facility to secure an open space permit. In addition the section allows the City Manager to impose restrictions, deny or cancel an event.
Educational Authority exemptions - section 20
Based on feedback received during the October 19th Committee of the Whole Meeting, section 20 was amended to clarify that an education authorities exemption to the Open Space Area Bylaw is only intended for open space areas directly related to a school (school grounds), and only when staff, contractors or agents are undertaking repair or maintenance work related to those grounds or developments located on those grounds.
Pathways - Section 17
Based on feedback received during the October 19, 2020 Committee of the Whole meeting, the draft bylaw was amended to address evolving pathway use. The amendment includes defining a power bicycle and also address's the potential of future trail devices by using the wording, "or similar device" to the definition of a pathway user. A Pathway user now means any person travelling on a pathway and shall include, but not limited to persons walking, jogging or using mobility aids, bicycles, power bicycle, scooters, roller blades, skateboards, sleds, toboggans, skis or similar devices.
Specific ride sharing services utilizing products such as e-bikes or e-scooters would be reviewed upon notice that a company wishes to conduct business in the City using these products/services. Depending on the specifics of the product/service, the bylaw may be amended. It is difficult to regulate these products/services until it is known specifically what the product or service is.