UPDATE: Homeowners never sought permission for rink, city faces liability issue, says mayor

UPDATE: Homeowners never sought permission for rink, city faces liability issue, says mayor
The Vincent family rink on Monaco Crescent.

CORNWALL, Ontario – The boards surrounding a huge homemade rink in Cornwall have to go, says city hall.

Coun. David Murphy and Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy said Tuesday the Vincent family will be allowed to keep the ice they have created on their front lawn on Monaco Crescent, but the boards surrounding the hockey rink must be removed.

“The city has nothing against homeowners wishing to build an outdoor rink to provide sport and recreational opportunities for children. In fact, we think it’s a great thing,” said O’Shaughnessy. “But this is not about children.

“This is about public safety and working within the bylaws that are in place. If we allow an exception to the bylaw in one place, what’s to say there won’t be other situations that arise?”

A city statement issued Tuesday sugggests the family never sought permission to erect the rink boards so close to municipal rights-of-way.

Murphy and O’Shaughnessy met with the family Tuesday morning to discuss the rink that has become a focal point of controversy in Cornwall.

Some neighbours are against the rink, and complained to the city. The city issued an order to remove the rink boards by Jan. 5 because they contravene municipal bylaws governing rights-of-way.

“I’m not happy about it,” Murphy said of the removal of the boards. He initially hoped the city would allow the rink in its entirety this winter, with the proviso that other arrangements would have to be found next year.

Murphy isn’t alone in his displeasure. Coun. Mark MacDonald is likewise unimpressed.

“My understanding is that our by-law officers have the authority to use discretion when it comes to enforcement.  They should use their discretionary authority and they can choose not to enforce this particular by-law, until next year,” he said. “The city does not enforce every by-law all of the time.  I respectfully disagree with the approach the city is taking on this issue.”

O’Shaughnessy said the city has a duty to act on potential safety and liability concerns.

“When we are made aware of liabilities we have a responsibility to correct them,” he said. “The city is expecting to face a significant increase in insurance costs in 2015. As a city, we should be looking at reducing liability, not increasing it.”

In its order the city said it wants the rink boards out by Jan. 5, which set off a tidal wave of complaints from residents who are suggesting both the neighbours and the city are being too heavy-handed.

Sources indicate the city is aware that ordering a family to remove an outdoor rink, even partially, is something that will create bad press in a country steeped in hockey traditions.

The 30×50-foot rink includes boards that rise some 2.5 feet, covered with vinyl sheeting for protection from pucks and the elements.

Laura Vincent said the rink, which was erected last winter too and cost several hundred dollars, has become a hotspot for neighbourhood shinny players and hockey nuts looking to spend some quality time outdoors.

“There are about six or seven kids playing on it on any given day,” she said in a phone interview. The din of young players could be heard in the background as she spoke. “Sometimes a whole hockey team will show up for a practice.”

A couple of complaints against the rink have been filed by neighbours. The city is suggesting the rink boards are contravening a right-of-way bylaw that prohibits structures from being built too close to municipal property and thoroughfares.

“They say it’s an obstruction,” said Laura. “But we drove around when we built it, just to make sure, and you can still see pavement.”

Laura added her children went door-to-door in the neighbourhood seeking support from neighbours for the rink – but ran into a couple of property owners who want it removed.

“(The kids) were pretty upset,” she said.

The Vincents claim the rink is about 10 feet from the road.

The notice the couple received from the city suggests if the rink boards aren’t removed by Jan. 5 the city will take them down – at the Vincents’ expense.

The couple has leapt to social media to gain support for their plight – with many supporters sounding off against the city.

Murphy suggested as much as 40 per cent of the rink is impacting the city’s right-of-way.

He said the city got involved when it received a couple of complaints from residents. Murphy added the city reacts to complaints of this nature and doesn’t “go looking” for these types of infractions.

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