Discussion was lively during the Town of Ponoka’s regular council meeting Tuesday, April 8, as councillors discussed the proposed Community Standards Bylaw.
The bylaw was developed with involvement from the Public Advisory Committee and combines and updates a few older bylaws about unsightly premises, noise and public behaviour.
The two main issues council discussed, after receiving feedback from the public during their meeting on March 12, dealt with allowable idling times for vehicles and the parking of recreational vehicles (RV’s) on residential properties.
Ponoka CAO Albert Flootman researched owners manuals for various models of diesel engines and provided council with his analysis.
Most manuals advised a minimum idling time of “several minutes” to allow for oil pressure to build up, but warned against excessive idling as it could cause combustion chamber temperatures to drop so low that the fuel may not burn completely, according to Flootman.
Based on that information, Flootman recommended the bylaw stipulate a 15 minute maximum for vehicle idling.
Coun. Kevin Ferguson asked if the issue wasn’t more about proximity and noise than the actual idling time.
“That’s more important than the actual amount of time as I’m sure everyone is going to debate that,” said Ferguson.
Coun. Teri Underhill says she “lives the life of a diesel truck” and doesn’t want the cost of replacing an engine because she wasn’t able to warm the vehicle up adequately.
“It’s a very specialized use of that truck that we are potentially damaging.”
Coun. Ted Dillon pointed out that if a truck is idling close to a neighbour’s furnace intake it would cause the odour to enter the home.
Coun. Carla Prediger asked administration when a person with a complaint should mediate with a neighbour and what council’s role should be in the process.
Flootman answered the town doesn’t have a formal mediation process.
“If we don’t have a process, it’s an interpretation between two people,” said Prediger, adding she felt council was being “too particular” when the bylaw already has sections on motor vehicle noise and production of odour.
Coun. Clayton Nelson was concerned that a future, unscrupulous bylaw officer could abuse the bylaw, saying he found some of the language “unsettling.”
Mayor Rick Bonnett says the idea with any bylaw is to try for compliance and that no bylaw is ever followed to the letter of the law.
Council voted unanimously to remove the idling time limit from the proposed bylaw.
The concern with RV and trailer parking on front yards was the neighbours having their view blocked and the effect on neighborhood character, according to administration.
The proposed bylaw permitted parking of an RV in a front yard parking pad from April 1 to Nov. 1, provided the vehicle did not overhang on the sidewalk.
Underhill fought hard to remove the dates from the bylaw.
“Your driveway is your driveway,” said Underhill, adding she’s not going to “pad somebody’s pocket” paying $250 a month for storing her RV during the winter.
“I don’t and I won’t.”
After some back-and-forth commenting, council passed a motion unanimously to remove the dates, and to permit RV and trailer parking in a dedicated space with setbacks.
Flootman told council he’d make the changes and bring the bylaw before them again at their next regular meeting.
The proposed bylaw also deals with public urination, littering, fighting, panhandling and loitering.