Sunday, June 29, 2008

24-inch Pool ByLaw Situation

When Kanata resident Richard Lapointe bought a $75 inflatable pool for his two young daughters, it was a huge hit on those hot summer days.

On the box, the pool dimensions are 12 feet by 30 inches -- with an air ring holding up the pool.

According to the instructions, it's supposed to be designed for the water to go up to the ring, the actual water level is supposed to be less than 23-inches deep.

But recently, he and his neighbours received a visit from a building code inspector who was checking for property damage as a result of a new house being built at the end of the street.

"Surprise, the next day we had a Pool Enclosure Bylaw 2001-259 violation report in our mail box. According to the ticket, 'Your pool is designed to hold more than 24 inches of water and must adhere to conditions of By-law 2001-259 being a by-law to regulate privately owned outdoor swimming pool enclosures. This enclosure requires a

permit,' " Lapointe relayed in an e-mail to the Sun.

According to him, the pool is only designed to hold 23 inches of water, but the bylaw says if it's capable of holding 24 inches you need a permit.

And hence, the requirement for a $150 permit for a $75 pool.

The permit is designed to pay for the cost of an inspector to ensure the pool is properly enclosed.

Lapointe said he wouldn't pay the "ridiculous" permit fee, and would instead tell his girls the pool has to come down.

"Is our city so desperate for money they are coming after kids and their pools? Should stores have warnings on them with the bylaw restrictions for Ottawa? How many people are buying these pools for less than $100, not knowing they have to pay the city $150 just to set it up?"

Lapointe wasn't impressed.

"The city seems pretty concerned with my pool, but where were they this winter when I had to shovel five feet of roadway just to get to my driveway? They should be more concerned with maintaining our parks and city lands which are deteriorating at a considerable rate, than kids' pools, but I guess they need the $150," he wrote.

"I am incredibly embarrassed to be a resident of this city. Could we vote on de-amalgamation?"

Arlene Gregoire, the director of Building Code Services, said complaints like this often occur because people simply aren't aware that kiddie pools that can hold 24 inches of water need a permit, regardless of what they cost.

"This is for toddlers, they are the ones that disappear in the blink of an eye," she said.

"It's really all aimed at safeguarding children.

"Every summer we get people who are frustrated. They buy inflatable pools, and may not have a fence, or it's three sided, and then they discover after they've bought the pool, there are these regulations to enclosures -- all for a $59 pool. So, yes, we've received complaints."

But while she understands the frustration, she said the city has a role to protect the safety of young children. And if you have a pool which can hold 24 inches of water, your yard must be properly fenced and inspected, and the $150 permit is charged on a cost-recovery basis.

The 24-inch rule applies to any kind of pool, whether it's a cheap kiddie pool, hot tub or even a garden pond.

Turns out this story has a happy ending for Lapointe. He says after contacting the Sun, he had phoned the city to have an actual bylaw officer visit his home Friday morning to see if the pool complied with the bylaw.

Seems saner heads prevailed.

Indeed, the officer agreed the inflatable kiddie pool wasn't really capable of holding 24 inches of water and, in fact, would likely burst if it did.

"That's just what I was saying. And that was my frustration, I kept telling them that.

"I'm satisfied with the outcome, but I think the bylaw itself is ridiculous."


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