|Posted on March 28, 2017 at 2:05 PM|
Four months ago, I met a friend at the Town of Newmarket municipal bylaw office. She was scheduled for a meeting with the town’s bylaws director, Leslie Long – a meeting she had requested. She asked me to come with her because she had been concerned with the town’s behaviour - behaviour that bordered on an infringement of her rights as a homeowner. She needed a witness and someone with a track record of holding the Town of Newmarket and its mayor and councillors accountable.
Apparently, my friend got several repeated calls from the town, demanding to see the inside of her basement. My friend was perplexed. After calling the municipal office, my friend learned that a bylaw officer entered her backyard when she wasn’t home and peered through her basement windows. They never called her with a heads up. They simply drove over and sniffed around her yard, peering into her windows – and thus began the escalation of harassment.
During that meeting, Ms. Long explained to my friend that the town had the authority to enter a homeowner’s property without their permission nor a search warrant. This, she said, is likely what happened. “But what would cause the town to walk onto my property without my permission?” asked my friend.
Answer: it’s none of your business. “We have to investigate everything” she sheepishly admitted. Obtaining a court order is such as hassle – why not work with the town and let us into your home? A town of Newmarket bylaw officer assumed the living space my friend had downstairs was an illegal basement apartment (it was actually a bedroom for her son) and thus they had the right to enter her property and look into her windows when no one was home.
Fast forward 4 months later, and suddenly the Town of Newmarket passes what they call a “housekeeping” bylaw, claiming they’d like to “update” their books and add a bylaw whereby they no longer need a search warrant to inspect your backyard. They can walk in whenever they feel like (pity those who live beside the psychotic neighbor).
But why did the Town of Newmarket’s bylaws director tell me and my friend, 4 months ago, that the town regularly made a habit of inspecting our properties - and peering into our windows - unannounced and without a search warrant? And why, four months later, are they suddenly covering their tracks and making sure this unorthodox practice was secured by a bylaw? Is it possible their habit of creeping into our yards caught up to them and they’re getting sued by a furious homeowner? Remember that Newmarket council has a penchant for closed door meetings, where they presumably love to discuss their problems away from the public eye.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this mystery are the comments at last night’s Newmarket council meeting, where all councillors enthusiastically not only voted in favour of the bylaw, but rather than debate it, they defended it.
For those of us all too familiar with the get-along gang’s consistent 8-0 votes, this is of no surprise. But for the majority of Newmarket homeowners, who mostly haven’t got a clue about what’s going on with their municipal councillors, this is disturbing.
There was Jane Twinney, who was the first to table the motion for a vote in favour. She explained that despite the numerous complaints from Newmarket residents about the proposed bylaw, this was a good thing. According to Jane, our “safety” was at risk if they didn’t implement this new law. Apparently, Jane seemed to think that obtaining a search warrant would hamper our health.
Regional councillor John Taylor agreed. He was the second to vote in favour, and went on for several minutes in his typical nonsensical way.
Then there was Dave Kerwin, who went on about how “transparent” the town and council were. Isn’t it odd how that word keeps popping up as a defense?
And how can we forget Christina Bisanz? She comically used the staff to help her defend her vote – which made her feel better.
Perhaps the funniest was Tom Vegh. Tom expressed his love of this new bylaw, explaining the necessity for strangers that could simply unhook a fence, and walk onto your property unannounced for any reason at all. Tom is running as a candidate for the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario in Newmarket-Aurora. Perhaps Tom needs to do a little homework with respect to the party’s position on property rights: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/reevely-ontario-tories-begin-property-rights-consultations-with-help-from-the-landowner-movement
It was nothing short of amusing listening to the town staff and council downplay their bylaw officers utterly psychotic behaviour of peering into your windows and helping themselves with access to your backyards last night. It's clear they have received a mouthful from the public. But my experience, along with my friends' 4 months ago, illustrates how typical it is for the town to say one thing to the public and do another behind closed doors.
Lastly, one important item I noted at last night’s meeting (thanks to my work on previous council, the meetings are now recorded and archived) the clerk stated that despite this new bylaw, if advised by a homeowner that the Town is NOT allowed to enter your premises, they would respect that.
My advice is that every single property homeowner in Newmarket write a letter to the Town advising them of just that.