Public Space Use Draft Bylaw: Prohibitions and Costs
On January 16, Guelph City Council unanimously directed City staff to develop a Public Space Use bylaw. The draft bylaw, which is now posted publicly, will be discussed and deliberated by Council at a special Council meeting on February 14. Council will vote on bylaw amendments at this meeting.
Excerpt from the draft Bylaw:
While this by-law will not resolve these significant underlying issues, it will assist with balancing the competing space needs for City owned property, addressing safety concerns, setting out guidelines to protect vulnerable individuals, and supporting the enjoyment of public spaces by all residents. Therefore, staff are proposing that Council adopt the attached Public Space Use By-law which includes the following provisions:
- a) Prohibition on encampments in spaces with competing public use during the daytime hours
- b) Prohibition on encampments within certain distances from specified areas such as railways, waterways, splashpads, property lines of schools, childcare centres, and cemeteries.
- c) Provisions to prevent the misuse of municipal electricity, water, and infrastructure including but not limited to fountains, outdoor faucets, and electrical outlets.
- d) Prohibition on damaging City infrastructure.
- e) Prohibition on encampments being placed in environmentally sensitive areas (for example, Carter Lands) as there is a risk of an impact on drinking water safety.
- f) Regulations related to safety regarding the type of shelters permitted and permitted materials.
- g) Regulations related to the keeping and storing of propane tanks.
- h) Regulations related to the number of shelters permitted within each cluster and distance requirements for clusters.
- i) Provisions to prohibit the removal of any encampment or part of, by unauthorized persons.
It is difficult to quantify the financial implications associated with the by-law, as staff cannot predict what legal challenges may be faced (as has occurred in other communities), and what the associated legal costs of defending the by-law might be. According to a publicly available study completed by the Department of Justice in 2016, the costs of arguing a Charter challenge all the way to the Supreme Court can range from as low as $50,000 to as high as $1,000,000.
Additional costs may arise related to enforcement of the by-law. Staff will endeavour to address the enforcement using existing resources included in the approved 2024 budget but will need to re-address the required resources based on call volume. If the call volume increases significantly, responding to this by-law could result in reduced responses on other by-laws, like the noise by-law, nuisance parties, or issuing of parking tickets; this could have a negative impact on revenues if, for instance, there was a reduction of parking fine revenues.
Alternatively, staff may need to consider bringing on additional staff resources. Should additional staff resources within 2024 be required, there would be an estimated additional cost of $69,000 in operating costs in 2024, for which staff would report back through the variance process. Future operating and capital budget impacts would be brought back for further consideration as part of the 2025 budget confirmation process.
Gallery: Greg Dorval receives Notice of Prohibited Activities and Trespass Notice for setting up a tent at 74 Woolwich St.
Public Space Use Bylaw: Special Council Meeting
Wednesday, February 14, 10 a.m.
Council Chambers, Guelph City Hall, 1 Carden Street
The goal of the bylaw is to:
- help make public spaces owned or operated by the City safer for all members of our Guelph community, and
- ensure that spaces are being used for intended purposes.
- While recognizing that Guelph still lacks sufficient permanent shelter space for unsheltered individuals, we are aiming to accommodate the needs of affected individuals in our community so they too can live more safely and with dignity.
Interested community members are welcome to read the draft bylaw and agenda packet and are encouraged to attend the meeting in person or watch the live stream.
Members of the public, community partners, social service agencies and businesses can register to delegate at the February 14 special council meeting in person, virtually, by phone or by sharing correspondence in advance. The deadline to register or share correspondence is February 9 at 10 a.m.
Feedback from the community is crucial in helping to shape the bylaw as it is being considered by Council. Adoption of the bylaw is expected at the February 27 City Council meeting.