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No Mow May? Not here: Area resident dinged with bylaw infraction

'I feel this particular bylaw should be challenged to support our local pollinator population. It's frustrating,' says Barrie woman
Lauren Burns holds a bylaw notice outside her Penetang Street home.

The grass isn’t greener, but it is shorter, in Lauren Burns’ front yard today.

The Barrie woman recently received a city bylaw Notice of Action Required to have the lawn cut at her Penetang Street home within 48 hours or her landlord would face a fine of $125.47.

So the lawn is cut short now and the landlord says it will be trimmed every two weeks, Burns said.

“I didn’t think the grass was that high,” she said. “Some things are more important than a manicured lawn.”

Burns mistakenly believed Barrie was operating within the No Mow May initiative. It allows residents to let their grass grow for the whole month of May, giving pollinators — such as ground-nesting bees and butterflies — something to eat when they move out of hibernation.

“With all of the environmental concerns, you would think there would be more recognition" of No Mow May, said Burns, a Barrie native who lives there with her partner and two-year-old son.

“Aside from longer grass and dandelions, my yard, driveway and front porch are always clean and well maintained,” she added in an interview. “I called (the city) and mentioned the No Mow May initiative, and was informed Barrie bylaw (enforcement) does not recognize this movement.”

City staff also said the city does not participate in No Mow May.

Coun. Clare Riepma represents Barrie’s east end, where there are many large lawns. He says not cutting your lawn is intended to let grass grow in the early spring and let wildflowers in lawns feed the bees and other pollinators.

“While it sounds like a great idea in theory, it doesn't work in practice,” he said. “It doesn't help our pollinators, it isn't good for your grass and it encourages more ticks.

“Our bees don’t feed on dandelions and clover generally develops flowers later in our area,” Riepma said. “Far better is to plant early flowering native plants and flowers in you gardens to support wildlife year-round.”

Burns said she was also told that city bylaw enforcement officers regularly patrol the area, handing out notices anytime they see unmaintained lawns. But it could also have been a neighbour who complained.

“I feel this particular bylaw should be challenged to support our local pollinator population,” said Burns, who’s in office management. “It’s frustrating.”

By authority of Ontario’s Municipal Act, Barrie’s yard maintenance bylaw is designed to address minimum standards to regulate the exterior of a property, including long grass and weeds, garbage and debris.

This bylaw deals with ground cover, which includes grass, weeds, plant materials, gravel, patios and parking areas that minimize soil or material erosion and/or the accumulation of mud.

Property owners must cut and maintain the ground cover on their lands to a height not greater than 15 centimetres, or six inches.

The city sent out a notice Friday, right before the long weekend, reminding residents to comply with Barrie’s bylaws.

And that the city has an enforcement team that monitors compliance with bylaws, and takes action when necessary. This can include issuing warnings, fines and even court proceedings in some cases. The city’s team handles almost 60,000 enforcement matters annually.

Fines range from $30 to $1,000 and services fees from $60 to $1,000, depending on the violation.

Fines may be higher if the matter comes before the courts.

Riepma has some advice for homeowners with lawns.

“You should not cut more than one-third of the height of your grass because it is hard on your grass plant,” he said. “Not cutting in May means that you have to do a series of cuts in June. It is better for your lawn to cut it consistently.”

The Ward 1 councillor said one thing that can be done to improve your environment is to trade in your gas-powered lawnmower for a battery-driven one. 

“The technology has advanced so that the battery-powered units work just as well or better than their predecessors and you don't need to store gas or tune them up, they don’t pollute the air and they are quiet,” Riepma said. “What is there not to like?”

As of May 2023, the District Municipality of Muskoka said Kingston, Gravenhurst, East Gwillimbury, Cornwall, Sudbury and Toronto were participating in No Mow May.