No farm animals allowed: CSL

Many municipalities have little-known bylaws

By Joel Goldenberg

The Suburban

March 3, 2010

Côte St. Luc has many well-known and publicized bylaws – perhaps its most famous are its overnight parking prohibition between 3 and 6 a.m., its pioneering requirement for bicyclists to wear helmets and also innovative ban on smoking in public places, well before Quebec made the latter province-wide law.

Other bylaws are obvious and by no means unique – putting out garbage at the correct time, keeping your dog leashed and out of parks, and no unauthorized parking in handicap zones.

But others are less obvious. Côte St. Luc’s website lists many of them. In that city, you can’t:

1. “Keep live farm animals or fowl on your land,” so do not expect to find any live cows, chickens or turkeys in local backyards and homes. There have been no such incidences in Côte St. Luc, The Suburban has been told, at least in recent years.

2. “Park a trailer, truck anywhere except for loading or unloading purposes.” However, in neighbouring Hampstead, one can frequently find trucks and trailers parked on Glenmore, at a home where the filming of major motion pictures has taken place over the years, to the annoyance of some residents.

3. “Put more than a total of six receptacles or plastic bags outside a building for garbage collection.” In this case, a major spring cleaning should take place over time.

4 “Make loud noises such as excessively honking your horn, blaring loud music or using any other sound reproduction device to do so.” So no bass-heavy rap music on Côte St. Luc streets.

5. “Feed pigeons, squirrels and other wild animals or poultry.” Bylaw #1 should take care of much of that issue.

In Hampstead, one otherwise little known bylaw has been gaining more prominence at monthly council meetings, the prohibition against speaking from the floor except during question period. Thanks to frequent violations by some council regulars and Mayor William Steinberg ordering a ticket issued during a council meeting – the order was later withdrawn and switched to a warning – that bylaw has been well publicized.

Other interesting bylaws also relate to decorum at council meetings. An attendee can be expelled if he or she is verbally disruptive, but also disruptive from a motion perspective. Thus, technically, attendees can be ordered to leave if they “wander away from the topic under discussion” or “move about between the council table and the public.”

The decorum bylaw also applies to reporters or residents who want to record meetings for their own library. For instance, “the use of a mechanical or electronic voice recording device is authorized during town council meetings on the condition that the equipment is used silently and without in any way disturbing the proceedings. The recording device must remain in the user’s physical possession.” This might indicate that a reporter or resident cannot leave his or her recorder running in the council chamber while taking a bathroom break.

Back in 2005, The Suburban reported that another Hampstead council meeting-related bylaw says that only council members “and officers assisting them, may be filmed or photographed by means of a still, video or television camera or any other device for recording images, and only during question period, may the people asking the questions of the council members also be photographed or filmed.” However, The Suburban was assured it would not be prosecuted if it took a picture of an audience member, for example, disrupting the meeting from the floor. Also, no action was taken during the fractious 2009 election campaign when some council meetings were filmed by a supporter of mayoral candidate and former councillor David Sternthal.

Another aspect of the decorum bylaw, the prohibition against “shouting, heckling, singing, making noise or any other gesture likely to negatively impact the proceedings.” Pretty much every one of these has been violated in the last few years – except for the singing.

On the other hand, Hampstead is not unique in designating a maximum of 30 minutes for their question period. However, not too many area municipalities follow that rule to the letter. Two Hampstead question periods at one meeting lasted a total four hours, ironically after an unsuccessful attempt to actually restrict the time to 30 minutes because of lengthy question periods at previous meetings.

In Montreal West, a recently posted 2008 bylaw decrees if a resident has more than two dogs or four cats, he or she “shall be considered to be operating a kennel or shelter.” The bylaw also says kennels and shelters are not allowed in the town’s residential zone. A permit must be obtained to open a kennel or shelter altogether.

However, there is one exception to the dog and cat limit rule. “In the event that a female dog or cat gives birth to a litter of puppies or kittens, [they] may be kept by the owner for a period not exceeding three months.”

As they say, ignorance is no excuse. Read your municipality’s bylaws.