Cartoonist Rob Kernachan’s depiction of the situation in the Artisan Gardens Chemainus neighbourhood.

Parents plan to defy Chemainus strata’s street play ban

They’ll pay the fines rather than abide by Artisan Gardens edict

Parents of kids who are affected by a new strata council bylaw in the Artisan Gardens neighbourhood in Chemainus intend to defy the order.

The strata council of the development off River Road voted 15-4 in favour of a roadways bylaw that reads as follows:

“Any use of a roadway for any purpose other than access to and from strata lots and, where permitted, for parking is prohibited. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, a roadway may not be used for play, including hockey, baseball, basketball, skateboarding, chalk artistry, bicycling or other sports and recreational activities.”

“Since I have one (child) that’s learning to ride a bike, that’s the biggest thing,” said resident Crystal Clarke, a renter of one of the homes in the neighbourhood since March of 2014 who was not entitled to a vote on the issue.

There are a mix of homeowners and renters in the complex.

Clarke has two other children, a 10-year-old who will be severely restricted by the ban and a 14-year-old daughter who’s the only teenager in the entire subdivision that was never marketed or sold as a seniors complex, but a multi-family development. Phase Two of the development is currently under construction with houses crammed close together and very little yard space that has become typical of many of today’s neighbourhoods.

No one from the strata board could be reached for comment on the bylaw that immediately sparked a huge outrage once it became public last week.

“We haven’t officially received the notice yet,” Clarke indicated at the start of the long weekend. “We’re going to keep riding.”

And even when she does receive the notice, Clarke said she won’t pay any attention to it and face whatever fines are forthcoming.

“I’ll just keep paying it. I’ll rent the road.”

Dylan and Christa Howard agreed, saying they’d do the same thing. The Howards have a daughter turning four in a couple of weeks.

“They can only fine us once every seven days,” noted Christa. “I don’t know the exact amount.”

Dylan was perplexed why the strata council didn’t “try to create some measure of safety before you ban the children.”

The Howards own their home and Christa saw the item coming up on the agenda of the strata council’s annual general meeting under New Business.

“I was aware of it and I did vote,” she said. “I was shocked and I was, like, it’s never going to pass.

“I wasn’t at the AGM. I gave my proxy vote to my neighbour and she took it over.”

When the result came out, many members of the neighbourhood immediately got together to see how they could fight the action.

“We have been directed to get as many people in our neighbourhood as we can to send letters to the strata council as a grievance,” said Christa.

Many are perplexed about how the issue even came up. The parents agreed if kids were drawing with chalk in the middle of the road and impeding cars coming through it would be quite different, but that hasn’t been the case.

“I’d understand it if there was broken windows or graffiti,” Dylan added.

But these are young kids and the alternative of keeping them inside and not allowed to even be on the edge of the street in front of their houses doesn’t wash with him.

“They’ve got nothing to stare at but four walls all day,” he said.

The neighbourhood is on a quiet street that is not a through road, with only local traffic.

“Our kids ride their bikes on the road,” said Christa. “Most kids do. We’re always safe.

“It’s just part of being a kid riding on the street. I urge people to come and see. It’s not a normal road.”

The parents offered it’s more a case of some drivers going too fast on the road into their homes than kids being a problem.

Social media blew up after the public got wind of the ban on kids’ roadway play, particularly on Chemainus Shoutouts. Former Chemainus Valley Courier columnist Ron Waller was among the most vocal.

“As a kid growing up here, some of my fondest memories are playing kick the can on the streets, hockey, riding my bike etc.,” he commented. “How about people taking a minute to walk to the back of their car to ensure it is safe to back up? I am considered an old person and I find this embarrassing for my peers. Ask them, did they ever play on the streets?

“In retrospect I am in shock. We provide them with TVs, video games, lotsa movies to watch and yet they want to go outside and play. How dare they get in my way when I get into my car. Next, they are going to start laughing, screaming and generally having fun in front of my house. I say lock ‘em up inside.”

Some sided with the board or at least understood the decision it made. But most agreed a ban on bikes shouldn’t be included.

The parents of those few families with kids in the neighbourhood hope a reasonable compromise can be reached. In the meantime, they’ll be standing firm in their beliefs.

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