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City proposes relaxing window cleaning bans during future water restrictions

Allowing only commercial window cleaning companies to clean window would be unfair and cumbersome to enforce, contends city
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High-rise window cleaning by StreakFighters.ca

It was one of the most punitive municipalities in Metro Vancouver during the 2015 drought when it came to enforcing water restrictions, but now the City of Richmond is proposing to relax its own water use bylaws, for practical purposes.

In a report to Richmond city council’s public works committee Wednesday, city planners are proposing to lift a ban on all aesthetic window washing during Stage 2 water restrictions.

The reason for the change, outlined in the report, is that because the Greater Vancouver Water District Board (Metro Vancouver) approved water use by commercial cleaning services for aesthetic purposes last month, city staff believe enforcement would be difficult as bylaw officers would be required to determine if the cleaning service was performed commercially or privately prior to issuing a ticket.

Furthermore, the city contends the new GVWD amendments are unfair to residents who cannot afford professional cleaning services.

“This causes the issue of financial disparity and presents unfair treatment to low-income residents,” noted the report.

It’s noted that Metro Vancouver prefers to have its rules align with those of each municipality, however it is not able to issue fines or penalties to municipalities applying discretion.

Metro Vancouver conducted a review of its water restrictions in November, following an unprecedented drought in the region, last summer.

One of the problems discovered, via consultation with municipalities and businesses, was monitoring and enforcement challenges.

“Local government staff noted that inconsistency in monitoring and enforcing the restrictions resulted in confusion for residents and businesses, which hindered compliance with the regulations,” noted a Metro Vancouver report.

Meetings were held with businesses associated with water use, such as golf courses, window washers, turf farms, irrigation companies and nurseries.

Another major concern raised was the financial impact to such businesses.

In addition to the immediate lift on aesthetic cleaning during Stage 2 restrictions, the board will also allow exemption permits to water new lawns or for treatment to control the European chafer beetle during Stage 3 restrictions.

In 2015, the City of Richmond came down hard on water wasters during the summer’s record-setting heatwave — to the tune of $208,200 in fines.

On the back of 50 written warnings, a total of 407 violation tickets at $500 each were issued, mostly in August, by city bylaw officers during Stage 3 restrictions, which banned lawn sprinkling of any kind. The proposals must still be endorsed by Richmond city council.

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