The initial impetus behind updating the Open Space Area Bylaw was to remove reference to smoking as the smoking bylaw now regulates that activity and a desire to restrict access to and on storm water management facilities for public health and safety.
Upon further review of the bylaw, and after a number of internal stakeholder meetings, it was determined that a more in-depth update to the bylaw would assist our organization and our community as it continues to grow and evolve.
During the summer of 2019, stakeholders began to see a number of potential conflicts between the Open Space Area Bylaw and the Traffic Bylaw. At that time, it was determined that finalizing the Open Space Area Bylaw should be slowed until a review of the Traffic Bylaw was completed. Both the Traffic and Open Space Bylaws are now complete and ready to move forward. When reviewing the Open Space Area Bylaw, a review of open space/parks bylaws from similar and larger communities across Alberta was also undertaken. Some of the best wording and concepts from these documents were considered and incorporated where appropriate.
The existing Open Space Area Bylaw was last updated in 2015. The update at that time was led by Enforcement Services staff and 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.
The proposed amendments to the Open Space Area Bylaw are not intended to drastically change the intent of the bylaw but instead are suggested to provide clarity and better reflect the current community use of open space and organizational practices. They aim 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. The proposed amendments to the bylaw would structure it into four general themes; administration, use, rules, and enforcement. (note: the themes are not identified in the bylaw, it is simply how it is grouped)
The following are the substantive amendments that would have significant policy or public impact:
- Open Space Permit - section 6
The proposed amendments 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 on 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 amendments 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.
- Developments - section 14.1 (d)
The amended 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 Managers 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.