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London seeks to end the annual turf war over naturalized front yards

A naturalized yard is seen in east London, Ont. in this undated image. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) A naturalized yard is seen in east London, Ont. in this undated image. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)
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Proposed changes to the Yard and Lot Maintenance By-law would clarify rules for growing wildflowers and plants as an alternative to grass lawns.

“There shouldn't be any legal question of whether someone is allowed to grow naturalized cover on their property, barring any health or safety concerns,” Brendon Samuels told the Community and Protective Services (CAPS) Committee on Tuesday.

Last year, Samuels urged city hall to modernize the by-law after receiving a complaint about his front yard of native plants, grasses and wildflowers.

After reviewing best practices from other municipalities, the updated by-law would permit naturalized yards to better reflect council’s goals and strategies around climate action, species diversification, and supporting pollinator habitats.

The report reads, “We sought to remove judgement from the regulation and enforcement of the by-law particularly around naturalized yards and to reduce the number of calls we receive regarding differences of opinion regarding yard aesthetics.”

Traditional turf grass lawns will have a maximum height of 20 centimetres (8 inches), but naturalized plantings will be permitted up to 0.9 metres (3 feet) within any corner visibility triangle or driveway visibility triangle.

All property owners must ensure the growth of their grassed or naturalized lawns do not create a public health and safety hazard, or a nuisance.

To provide clarity for enforcement staff and the public, and to reduce the bias toward traditional grassed yards, several definitions would be removed from the by-law including ‘naturalized areas’, ‘perennial gardens,’ and ‘wildflower meadows.’

In addition, a list of ‘prohibited plants’ would be developed that may differ from the Weed Control Act.

The list will provide local flexibility to define invasive and noxious plants.

“I would like to see greater guidance given to the garden centres,” said Coun. Sam Trosow. “They should not be selling things to the public that are detrimental to our city policy.”

The CAPS Committee recommended council approve the modernized by-law on March 5.

The city receives approximately 4,000 complaints each year about yard maintenance.

Penalties for violating the by-law would rise from $175 to $300.

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