By Chad Ingram
Most of us at one time or another have likely read or heard about quirky laws or bylaws that exist in certain places, often left over from a bygone time.
For example, in Ontario, if you don’t pay your hotel bill, it is apparently legal for that hotel to sell your horse. I’m not sure what that would mean in the case of the vast majority of us who don’t own horses today, but you get the picture.
Earlier this spring, the reason behind a less quirky but odd bylaw in Minden Hills came into question, one regulating the operation of food trucks within the township. A local business owner came before councillors, requesting they amend a 17-year-old bylaw dictating that any business owner wishing to locate a food truck on their property obtain permission from any other food establishment owners located within 1,000 feet. The business owner told councillors that at first she’d thought it must be a typo, but the mayor said that was not the case, adding he wasn’t aware of the rationale behind the bylaw, created long before his tenure.
A subsequent staff report indicated that, “It is believed that the rationale for the 1,000 foot requirement is that if an existing restaurant was already established, and a refreshment vehicle was set up in close proximity, the refreshment vehicle may have an advantage with regard to setup and overhead costs, property taxes, etc.”
So, it seems the bylaw was designed to essentially protect existing business owners from competition, which one could argue is not really the place of a municipal government. One, it certainly flies in the face of the basic free market principles upon which our capitalist system is based and two, it seems to work against local economic development, something which most municipalities in the still largely seasonal economy of Haliburton County struggle with.
Council, rightfully and logically, has instructed staff to greatly reduce that setback. It is to change to 100 feet, which is the same distance included in a similar bylaw in Dysart et al. One could also make the argument there should be no setback at all, which is currently the case in Algonquin Highlands and Highlands East.
Municipal bylaws are ultimately living documents, ones that require ongoing review and updating to ensure they serve the best interests of the community, both residents and business owners, and are working to meet community goals.