A south Winnipeg man who has flouted an order to mow the boulevard beside his home plans to challenge the city's bylaw in court on the grounds it is akin to "slavery."
Rick Hykawy, 46, is set to appear in court on Aug. 9 to fight a city order to cut the grass on the boulevard adjacent to his corner property off Island Shore Boulevard. Hykawy moved into the home in 2006, and said he had no problems until 2008 when the city passed a new neighbourhood livability bylaw and officials told him he has to mow the strip of land next to his property.
Winnipeg's neighbourhood livability bylaw stipulates homeowners who live adjacent to a boulevard must ensure grass is no more than 15 centimetres high, keep it free of trash and control any noxious weeds. Boulevards on regional streets are maintained by the city.
Hykawy argues no one should be forced to do work for the city for free, and the bylaw is a violation of his charter rights. He said the city would not force him to cut his neighbour's lawn, and he should not be told to maintain any property he doesn't own.
"I'm absolutely going to challenge them, because what they're doing is slavery. It's out and out slavery," Hykawy said. "I've seen my fair share of stupid, but this really takes the cake to have a city that makes money off of a property delegate their citizens to take care of it for no payment."
Twelve years ago, the city's boulevard maintenance bylaw was changed and homeowners officially became responsible to weed, clean and mow the grass. Previously, city crews maintained the boulevards in some parts of Winnipeg, while others had to do it themselves.
The new neighbourhood livability bylaw was passed in 2008 and gave the city more power to deal with residents who neglect their properties. Officials started to crack down and issue steeper fines to residents who refused to comply.
Hykawy said the boulevard contains a cable box, hydro box and a fire hydrant, and the city has not asked Manitoba Hydro or the cable company to cut the grass. He said the city has added the cost of sending crews out to cut the grass and pull weeds to his annual property tax bill.
Hykawy said his taxes pay for city services, and Winnipeg crews should be responsible for city property.
City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Michelle Bailey would not comment on a specific case but said bylaw enforcement officials try to work with property owners and inform them it's their responsibility to maintain boulevards adjacent to their property. If the city receives complaints, Bailey said, staff will speak with homeowners about the bylaw.
She said if they don't comply, they will receive a notice to appear in court.
"Some people don't think they have to look after boulevards, but they do," Bailey said.
Hykawy is no stranger to court appeals. In 2007, he argued for a photo radar ticket to be thrown out on the grounds evidence showing the cameras have been properly calibrated and tested was inadmissible. A judge noted a problem with the prosecution and said he couldn't in good conscience convict Hykawy.
Hykawy said he has had three out of four photo radar tickets thrown out in court, and he plans to prove the city's bylaw is unfair.
"What's next? Am I going to shovel the sidewalks in the winter? Will I have to get a ladder to climb up and change street lights? Where does it end?" he said. "I'm fighting this all the way."
Cut to the chase
Winnipeg's neighbourhood livability bylaw came into effect on Nov. 1, 2008, and regulates everything from noise control to littering.
Section 8 of the bylaw regulates boulevard maintenance:
Obligation to maintain boulevard
87(1) Subject to the provisions of this section and section 88, the owner and occupant of property adjacent to a boulevard are each responsible for maintaining that portion of the boulevard that is adjacent to the property and are each guilty of an offence under this bylaw for failing to do so.
87(2) The obligation imposed in subsection (1) includes the obligation to ensure that no aspect of the boulevard nor anything located on the boulevard contravenes the restrictions on non-standard boulevard treatments set out subsection 89(3) or, alternatively, that the boulevard fully complies with a permit issued under section 90.
87(3) The obligation imposed in subsection (1) includes the obligation to:
(a) keep turf and any vegetation that has not been planted pursuant to this bylaw or the designated employee's authorization trimmed to a maximum length of 15 cm (6 in);
(b) ensure that vegetation that has been planted, other than turf, is no more than 1.0 m (39 in) in height; and
(c) ensure that the boulevard is kept free of garbage.
87(5) The obligation imposed in subsection (1) does not include the responsibility to maintain trees within the boulevard and does not supersede any policy adopted by the city respecting the removal of trees from boulevards.
-- source: City of Winnipeg, neighbourhood livability bylaw.