New rules would give the municipality authority to enact driving bans

When the next major winter storm strikes, or any other major emergency that could affect driving, the Town of Fort Erie may have the ability to enact a driving ban.

The new power for the director of infrastructure was among the most consequential of the changes passed by councillors at the May 13 council-in-committee meeting, when they approved a report recommending updates to the consolidated traffic and parking bylaws, as well as the administrative penalties regarding stopping, standing and parking of vehicles.

These changes come largely as a result of issues that arose during Storm Eliot in December 2022.

“We felt strongly about those folks who were going out in the middle of the storm getting stuck in the storm, then needing rescuing, then their car needing (to be) towed,” said Jennifer Pennell-Ajie, executive assistant to the director of infrastructure and division coordinator for the Town.

“It’s trying to prevent folks from going out in the first place.”

During that storm, there was some confusion surrounding who had authority to close roads, director of infrastructure Kelly Walsh told councillors.

“Nobody really knew who had the authority to close a road or the roads if we needed to close them. Neither the police nor I could figure it out, so this defines it,” he said.

That explanation confused Councillor Nick Dubanow, who said the police have that authority under the Highway Traffic Act.

“I’m surprised the police didn’t know they had that authority because the Highway Traffic Act explicitly gives police authority to close a road,” Dubanow said.

Dubanow also had concerns that these issues would be dealt with through the administrative monetary penalty system (AMPS) instead of the more traditional provincial offences process.

“I have a lot of difficulty with moving violations being done this way,” he said.

In his view, given the steepness of the fines and the nature of the offence, Dubanow said they shouldn’t be handled through AMPS, which is a more direct process where penalties are imposed directly by the municipality in an administrative process as opposed to a judicial process.

Proposed fines for these violations range from $300 to $500.

Dubanow also pointed out that with the December 2022 storm, it came on quickly, surprising many drivers who had been out and about. He worried in a future event that people who got caught in a storm by surprise could be penalized.

But Pennel-Ajie said the target is people who go out after an emergency ban is declared and that bylaw officers would use evidence to determine if that was the case or if a driver had simply been caught off guard.

The update included other changes, but most of those surrounded updates to language and wording to make things clearer and more consistent.

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