The Town of Sylvan Lake is revising its Animal Control Bylaw. (Black Press file photo)

The Town of Sylvan Lake is revising its Animal Control Bylaw. (Black Press file photo)

Locals concerned with amount of public engagement for hot button Sylvan Lake bylaw

The Animal Control Bylaw is expect to come before council this summer

Two locals are asking the Town of Sylvan Lake to put more work into the Animal Control Bylaw before presenting it to Council.

Steven Bedford and Lani Rouillard say the draft of the bylaw, available for review on the Town’s website, needs more work and more resident feedback before moving forward.

Bedford says the draft bylaw has numerous errors in drafting and grammar. There many areas of concern he and Rouillard have, including the “blanket enforcement and fines” presented in the draft.

“There needs to be a baseline of fairness,” Bedford said.

The two say residents are not being heard, and their concerns and wants for an animal control bylaw are not being taken into consideration, or reflected in the draft presented to the public.

The Town has so far had two public engagement opportunities for residents; an online survey and an open house, held at the end of May.

Based on the survey results, residents want to see urban bee keeping allowed in the town, as well as the ability to rehabilitate a dog.

“A lot of people, myself included, feel like they aren’t being heard,” Rouillard said.

Bedford has been advocating to update the animal control bylaw for roughly a year, and says what has been presented is a complete rewrite, with much copied for other municipalities, and does not accurately reflect Sylvan Lake or its residents.

“It is a complete rewrite, and that is not what we had advocated for. We wanted an update and to be listened to,” he said.

Rouillard says it feels like the Town and Council are out of touch with the residents.

She said more public engagement is needed before the bylaw is presented to Council for first reading.

“We need Council to actually walk the street and talk to residents, find out what they need and how they can help them. It is their job to represent us,” Rouillard said.

“We need boots on the ground.”

Typically, when a new bylaw is presented to Sylvan Lake Town Council, a first reading is given and at a later date the second and third reading is given following a public hearing. Should Council feel the bylaw needs more work following a public hearing, second and third reading may be delayed.

Animal control bylaws are a hot button issue around Central Alberta. Many municipalities including Red Deer and Rimbey have been working on updating their own animal control bylaw for a year or more.

Bedford says the care and attention being put into the bylaw by other municipalities is admirable, but not needed in Sylvan Lake.

“We had a good starting point already, we just needed to update it to make it more clear for residents and reflect their needs,” he said.

Ultimately, the two say the drafted bylaw is not ready for a first reading.

“At the state it is in, it will cost more and put more on Bylaw Enforcement as they try to navigate all of this. I understand budgets are a thing, but investing in this now will save money with bylaw enforcement down the line,” Rouillard said.

“We need the people, the residents of Sylvan Lake to stand up and get involved. They need to make their voices heard in this matter,” Bedford said.

The animal control bylaw is expected to be presented to council for the first reading in the near future.

According to the Town’s timeline, following the first reading – tentatively scheduled for July – continued public input is scheduled for July and August.

The new bylaw is expected to be passed by the end of August.

The draft bylaw, as well as the survey results, can be found on the Town’s website.