Posts Tagged ‘by-law’

Hang ‘Em Out to Dry! (Clotheslines & the Law)

Update – April 10, 2012

I asked the Province (Ministry of Energy) to clarify the regulations regarding clotheslines in condominiums. Here’s the reply I received:

Dear Mr. Wobschall:

Thank you for your letter regarding the use of clotheslines in condominiums. I commend you on your interest in conserving energy.

The Ministry of Energy promotes the air drying of clothes over using a clothes dryer where appropriate. In 2008, the province changed the regulation pertaining to the use of clotheslines to dry laundry in Ontario. This change allowed people to use clotheslines in certain circumstances where they might not otherwise be allowed. This change applies to ground level clotheslines only; clotheslines on condominium balconies continue to be subject to the rules set by the building owner and agreed to by its occupant owners or tenants. As such, allowing the use of clotheslines on the balcony of your condominium unit is at the discretion of the Condominium Board.

For more information, please visit the Ministry of Energy’s Electricity Regulations webpage at This site includes a series of questions and answers which will provide further clarity on the government’s clothesline regulation.

Once again, thank you for your letter regarding the use of clotheslines in condominiums.

Update – April 2, 2012

Added condo-specific information from the Ministry of Energy’s website below. Pete W.

Update – March 10, 2011

I just received the following information from the City in response to a question I asked on this issue:

Hi Pete,

Without quoting from the Zoning By-law directly (as it’s pretty long) there are no zoning regulations for clotheslines. A clothesline is not considered a structure and can be located within any required yard. None of the Zoning By-laws speak specifically to clotheslines so this is our interpretation applied across the board.

Debbie Spence
Communications Officer
General Manager’s Office
Planning and Economic Development Department
City of Hamilton
71 Main Street West, 7th Floor
Hamilton, ON

Original Post…

We had a group from the Hamilton Naturalists Club visit EcoHouse for a tour recently and our tour guide (Clare) was asked about regulations pertaining to clothelines. This may be old news to some, but we do get this question more often than you might think. Thanks to some of our great staff (Clare, Laura, and Kirstin) for the info I used in this post.

Yes, You May

If you’re looking for the quick response: yes – you may use a clothesline at most residences; as long as it doesn’t pose a health threat, and it’s on your property; even if you currently live under a developer’s covenant, landowner rental agreement,  or municipal or condominium by-law preventing their use.

Provincial Clothesline Regulations

Provincial regulations enacted in 2008 to contribute to energy conservation efforts, superceeds most by-laws and provisions restricting their use. Here is my summary of the Province’s webpage overview on this subject (I am not a lawyer – best to read the regulations yourself):

Generally Speaking…

  • Clotheslines are considered: clotheslines, clothestrees, and anything else that has the purpose of “drying clothes” and “no other purpose” (I’m guessing that a 12 foot statue of your mother-in-law wouldn’t qualify as a “clothes dryer”.
  • Clotheslines can be used in back and side yards.
  • Clotheslines can be used if you access them by standing directly on the ground, or from a deck or other fixed structure.
  • Clotheslines can be used if they are on your property, or property you are renting as long as your agreement/lease allows you (and only you) to use the property.
  • Clotheslines can be used as long as they do not compromise safety.
  • Condos are a little different, but the act does permit use in “ground level exclusive right of use areas”, as long as they do not pose health risks.
  • Clotheslines on balconies are still subject to the rules of the building owner and agreed to by its occupant owners or tenants.

Please note: this is my summary only, please read for yourself the Province’s summary of the regulations here.

Text from Ontario Regulation 97/08:

Designation of clotheslines etc.
1.  The following are designated for the purposes of subsection 3 (1) of the Act:

1. Clotheslines.
2. Clothestrees.
3. Any goods and technologies that have a purpose that is the same as a clothesline or clothestree, and no other purpose.
4. Any equipment that is necessary for the proper installation and operation of anything that is designated under this section. O. Reg. 97/08, s. 1.

Prescribed circumstances
2.  A person is permitted to install and use any goods or technologies designated in section 1, if the following circumstances apply:

1. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed on property upon which is situated a house or building that is used solely for residential occupancy and which is the person’s place of residence.
2. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed in a manner so as to ensure that there are no impediments to safety, including, but not limited to, impediments to access to or egress from the house or building.
3. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed adjacent to the side or rear wall of the house or building so as to be useable by a person,

i. standing directly on the ground,
ii. standing on a deck or other fixed platform accessed directly from the ground floor of the house or building, if the deck or fixed platform is no higher than the floor level of the ground floor, or
iii. standing on a step-stool or similar device placed either directly on the ground or on a deck or other fixed platform accessed directly from the ground floor of the house or building, if the deck or fixed platform is no higher than the floor level of the ground floor.

4. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed in an area where the person has an exclusive right of use by virtue of their residency. O. Reg. 97/08, s. 2.3.  Omitted (provides for coming into force of provisions of this Regulation). O. Reg. 97/08, s. 3.

Clothes Dryer Energy Use

So, how much energy (and cash) can you save with a clothesline?

Clothes dryers are a handy item, particularly when its cold or raining for periods of time and you can’t use a clothesline. However, the efficiency of clothes dryers is not advancing as quickly as other appliances such as dishwashers or clothes washers – it still pays to reduce your clothes dryer use. The following table compares data from Natural Resources Canada.

Appliance                                       1990*                                 2008*

Dishwashers                                      1,026                                    343

Clothes Washers                              1,218                                     387

Clothes Dryers                                 1,103                                    916

*Average annual kilowatt hour use.

NRCan assumes you dry 8 loads per week, or 416 averages loads per year. Based on the 1990 consumption data, and at $0.11 per kilowatt hour*, the annual average cost to operate per year is around $121 per year. At the 2008 average, it would cost around $100 to operate per year. A very rough calculation based on using a clothesline from May to September (5 months of the year, a 42% reduction in use) would result in  a savings of around $50 for the 1990 average, and $42 for the 2008 average.

*Please note: determining the average price per kilowatt for electricity is difficult. We used $0.11 as this was the number provided to Green Venture as a rough estimate from our utility, before Smart Meters were introduced and recent electricity rate hikes, which now make it more difficult to calculate.  

Clothes Dryer Conservation Tips

When you must use a dryer, here are some tips on dryer conservation from Horizon Utilities.

Lots of great info from Natural Resources Canada on selecting new appliances, calculating the life costs of an appliance, and more.

FAQs from Ministry of Energy Website

Change to Clothesline Regulation

April 18, 2008 – Changes have been made to the regulation pertaining to the use of clotheslines to dry laundry in Ontario.

The province is putting an end to some restrictions that prevent people from using outdoor clotheslines. This includes agreements between home builders and buyers in some towns and cities in Ontario.

Questions and Answers About Ontario’s Clothesline Regulation

What does the new regulation say exactly?
The new regulation allows people to use clotheslines in certain circumstances where they might not otherwise be allowed – because of a developer’s covenant, landowner rental agreement, or municipal or condominium by-law. The regulation overrides any such prohibitions.

Where are clotheslines allowed?
Clotheslines are now expressly permitted:

  • On ground level (includes a deck) in a homeowner’s back or side yard;
  • On a ground level (includes a deck) in a renter’s back or side yard, if the rental arrangement gives exclusive use of the yard to the renter.

Where will clotheslines still not be permitted under this regulation?
This regulation will not override existing by-laws whose purpose is to maintain safety (such as prohibitions against its use in high rises) or any provincial statute or regulation.

Does the regulation mean that clotheslines are not allowed on balconies?
Clotheslines on balconies will continue to be subject to the rules set by a building owner and agreed to by its occupant owners or tenants. The government’s decision was to not overturn rules banning clotheslines in those situations. Those rules recognize the potential safety issues associated with clotheslines on upper floor balconies.

By specifying that the regulation applies to bans on clotheslines on the ground floor, the government was, however, able to apply the regulation to a wider set of building types. For example, the regulation does encompass ground floor clotheslines for buildings over three stories, without increasing the safety risk.

How does the regulation affect condominiums?
The new regulation establishes clotheslines in ground floor exclusive right-of-use areas as a permitted good or technology to promote energy conservation, as prescribed by the Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006 (ECLA). As a result, any condominium bylaw prohibiting clotheslines in these areas is now overridden.

  • In some condominium projects, a ground level area is part of the condominium unit (and is not a common element). In this case, a clothesline may be installed or used in the side or back yard, so long as it does not impair safety.
  • In the case of a ground level area of a condominium that is part of an exclusive use common element, the unit owner will need to speak with the Board before installing a clothesline. Common elements belong to the corporation as a whole, and the Board has a duty to manage and administer the common elements on behalf of the corporation and the unit owners. Board approval is always required before an owner makes any alteration to a common element.
  • Under the new regulation, a portable drying rack that does not result in any alteration to an exclusive use common element could be used (without need of Board approval) in the side or back yard of a ground level condominium unit, so long as it does not impair safety.

Does the regulation apply to trailers and tents?
The regulation applies to property where there is a house or other residential “building”. A mobile home in a complex where the homes, while “mobile”, move infrequently, are set on fixed semi-permanent supports, and are typically the occupant’s principal residence and primary mailing address, are included. Trailers and tents in areas such as parks and camp grounds are not a building, and not commonly someone’s primary house, and so are not included.

Parks and camp areas where people often go with trailers or tents, typically have rules meant to protect the natural features of the area, For example, there may be concerns over how a clothesline might be fastened to a tree, or might damage a small tree. These local rules may or may not make provision for clotheslines. In either case, the regulation does not apply to these scenarios as the regulation would only apply in respect of a property upon which is situated a house or other residential building being occupied as a residence.

Does the regulation affect municipal by-laws?
A review did not uncover any current Ontario municipal by-law that restricts the use of clotheslines. The two kinds of restrictions that do appear to often occur are the restrictive covenants imposed by developers. That said, the regulation would supersede any municipal by-law, existing or proposed, to specifically restrict clotheslines.

Backyard Composting & Hamilton’s Lawn Maintenance Bylaw

When reviewing the City of Hamilton’s Lawn Maintenance By-law No. 10-118 yesterday for another post on replacing lawns with native species, I came across some provisions relating to backyard composting. I was previously unaware of these and thought they would be worth posting before I forgot about them.

Here they are:

4(7) Every owner or occupant of a property shall:

(a) have not more than 2 compost heaps on their property; and

(b) ensure that each compost heap:

(i) has a maximum size of 1 m3;

(ii) is located a minimum of 1 m from any property line; and

(iii) is enclosed on all sides by concrete blocks, a lumber structure, a metal frame, or a commercial plastic compost container.

4(8) For the purposes of section 4, “yard” includes but is not limited to an exterior porch or similar erection.

Happy composting!


Green Venture’s Composting Webpage (Vermicomposting and Backyard Composting resources)

Step-by-step video on backyard composting.

Replacing Lawns with Native Species

We recently received the following question from Josh on our Facebook page:

“Hey Green Venture, Do you have any info on Hamilton’s Long Grass and Weeds by-law? I’m interested in planting native plants this year but wondering if the city will stop the plants from growing to their full height. Thanks in advance!”

The recent record-breaking warmfront has some folks thinking about spring, gardening, and how to make the best of our seasonal outdoor “play time”. As most of us know, maintaining lawns is time-consuming and has some real, avoidable environmental costs in terms of water, soil, and air quality. An overview of these issues can be found on our factsheet Healthy Lawns and Healthy People.

Green Venture is however, quick to point out that lawns make wonderful outdoor play areas for families and pets. So, the trick is limiting lawn areas to what you need – this will mitigate damage to the environment and provide a great space to play outdoors. Remember that nearly all grass varieties used for lawns are non-native, and therefore require much maintenance as they are not used to our local climatic conditions. If you do need a “lawn” area, then check out some healthier alternatives below that will still provide a great outdoor playing surface (groundcovers including clover, and eco lawn seed mixes).

If you find the only time you are spending on your lawn is cutting it, then you might want to think about alternatives to lawns that would allow you more time to spend with family and friends. Alternatives include food gardens, shrub gardens, edible gardens, groundcovers, trees, and even permeable (porous) hardscaping such as paver stone (interlock) patios, or gravel areas.

Josh is interested in replacing his lawn with native species – we say hurray!

Weed Law Battles

Josh’s question is not uncommon – the battle between weed laws and folks trying to reduce their carbon footprint by using alternatives has been going on for some time. One of the most interesting reads in this subject includes examples dating back to the 50s including some Canadian examples. You can find this article on the US EPA’s webpage entitled “A HISTORY OF WEED LAWS AND THE BATTLES OVER THEM” (1/3 down the webpage).

My favourite is Lorrie Otto’s story:

Lorrie Otto – The High Priestess of Natural Landscaping Movement

The modern suburban natural landscape movement’s roots are traced to the efforts of one woman, naturalist-teacher Lorrie Otto. When the Otto’s moved to their suburban Milwaukee home in the 1950s, the front yard was an acre and a half of lawn with a bed of tulips and 64 spruce trees. It looked like a swiss chalet surrounded by Christmas trees. Mrs. Otto wanted her children to learn first hand about the wonders of Nature so she planted some blue and white aster (Aster azureus), yellow goldenrod (Solidago canadenis), fragrant bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and some ferns.

In the early 1960s, Bayside, Wisconsin, officials viewed her wild fern garden as “weeds” and cut it down. An enraged Lorrie Otto took up the fight and convinced village officials that a natural landscape was a public good and not a health hazard. She went on to become the director of the “Wild Ones – Natural Landscapers, Ltd.,” a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and share information with members and the community at the “plants level” and to promote bio-diversity and environmentally sound practices. By 1992, the Wild Ones boasted five chapters in Illinois and Wisconsin and more than 1200 members.

Mrs. Otto, now in her seventies, has received national awards for her environmental efforts. Her naturally landscaped yard is considered one of the best gardens in America. It contains 80 wildflower and grass species reflecting the diversity of a native Wisconsin prairie.

In a poetic turn of fortune, in the village that once sent a mower to level Mrs. Otto’s wildflowers, there are now sold-out bus tours of a dozen naturally landscaped homes including her now famous yard.

Hamilton Lawn Maintenance By-law 10-118

Although the “battle against weed laws” may seem out-of-date and somewhat ironic to folks today, it is still a very real issue to some. There are recent examples in Burlington and Hamilton that suggest people (and complaining neighbours) are coming around. In fact, Hamilton’s revised Lawn Maintenance By-Law No. 10-118 is a reflection of this changing trend.

Among the dated provisions from the repealed by-law were those that required all lawns to be “weed-free” (whatever that means), and required a buffer-zone of cut grass around naturalized areas.

Hamilton’s revised Lawn Maintenance By-law No. 10-118 states:

3(1)(a) Every owner or occupant of property shall keep vegetation in the yard of their property clean and cleared up.

3(1)(c) …”clear” or “clear up” means:

3(1)(c)(i) for property located inside the urban boundary that is equal to or less than 0.4 ha [43,056 sq ft] in area, to keep all plants cut to a height of equal to or less than 21 cm, except:

1. ornamental plants;
2. shrubs or trees,
3. cultivated fruits or vegetables; or
4. plants buffering or otherwise protecting a natural feature such as a watercourse.

[There are other requirements if your property is larger than 0.4 ha.]

My Interpretation of the By-law

I am no lawyer, but as far as I understand, Josh, you can go right ahead and replace all of your lawn with beneficial native species (if you think or know I’m wrong, please let me know!). I am basing this interpretation on the following (remember, I am no lawyer!)

“Ornamental” is open to interpretation. Hamilton’s by-law provides the following definition: “‘ornamental plant’ means a plant deliberately grown for beautification, screening, accent, specimen, colour or other aesthetic reasons but does not include any variety of turf grass.” If you are anything like me, you feel that native plants fit very easily into this definition. Heck, they’re beautiful! Not just their flowers, which last for a precious short time, but for their foliage and other attributes.

However, common sense should be used here– although it appears you could technically replace the lawn with some “ornamental” native species from your foundation to the sidewalk edge, I think it would be safer to plan your design and carefully select the species you decide to plant. I would consider creating a large “garden” area (or several smaller ones) with clearly defined edges, and a metre-or-so wide buffer area of ecolawn, clover, or other groundcover that grows below 21 cm in height between them and public sidewalks (as per by-law heights above). You could also make it look attractive with a border of paver stones, potato stones, or other permeable hardscape, instead of something that may require maintenance. This way, your natural areas will clearly be “ornamental gardens” (you might want to talk to you lawyer about this interpretation!)

There are also landscape designers that have experience in using native plants (and best methods of presenting them to keep neighbours from complaining). We have used Paul O’Hara from at EcoHouse for many years.

Look Out! Noxious Weeds

You should also be careful when selecting native plants for your garden. Section 3(1)(c)(iii) of the Lawn Maintenance By-law states “to remove noxious weeds and, in the case of poison ivy, treat the poison ivy with an herbicide…”.

There is a Provincial Act called the Weed Control Act, which regulations list a number of noxious weeds (you can find a list of these noxious plants here). This provincial act provides a list of plants that present dangers to grazing animals and some species like poison ivy (a native species by the way), which pose some threat to humans. Many municipal property standards by-laws reference this act, including Hamiltons.

One plant that is listed in the act is Milkweed (a native species). As most of us are aware, milkweed is vitally important to monarch butterfly populations! Sure, it might kill a cow if it ate enough of it, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a cow grazing along King St in Westdale or Stoney Creek!

Years ago I contacted the by-law department to express my concern with urban lawn maintenance by-laws integrating the noxious weed act, which was developed to protect the agricultural sector. I was pleasantly surprised when the by-law representative stated that they would be happy to meet and begin the process of amending the by-law, and make provisions for certain plants to be used in urban settings. Unfortunately, I didn’t have funding at the time to pursue the issue and was too busy to follow it up – perhaps I can reopen this file sometime soon…

In Summary – Go For It!

I believe Josh, that you could, and should go for it! Although…be prepared to run into some troubles with complaining neighbours or by-law officers who have yet to be enlightened on the benefits of native species and the detrimental effects of traditional lawn care.

However, if you do go for it, and do run into trouble, I’m sure there are some lawyers, councilors, and community groups that would help you in your efforts to convince folks that your native garden (as beautiful and ornamental as it might be) actually contributes to a healthier community!

Bottom line – our society is moving in this direction, and frankly we need folks like you to be early adopters – if you don’t do it, who will!

All the best in your efforts. I have included some resources that may be helpful below. Please let me know if you have any other questions or comments.


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