What You Need To Know About By-laws

What is a By-law?
A by-law is a law passed by a municipality reflecting council's desired quality of life within the community.  It has effect only within that municipality.

By-law Enforcement
In The City of Port Colborne, Municipal By-Law Enforcement Officers, working in conjunction with Community, Planning and Development Department, Building Division, Fire Department, Niagara Regional Police, Region of Niagara and the Province of Ontario, are responsible for the administration of By-laws. 

Trained and accredited by the province, they benefit from backgrounds that encompass extensive law enforcement responsibilities.  Under the direction of council, officers strive to protect the city's persons and property through the provision of by-laws either by obtaining cooperative compliance or by initiating legal proceedings.

By-law Infractions
Although city-wide inspections are regularly conducted throughout the year, further inspections are carried out in specific areas on a seasonal basis in order to identify obvious by-law infractions.  However, enforcement is often triggered through the complaint process.   Names of all complainants are kept confidential. 

Upon receipt of a complaint, officers will form an investigation plan and initiate first contact with the subject of the complaint within 48 hours if possible.  Officers will then attempt to obtain cooperative compliance by bringing the violation to the attention of the individual(s).  A period or periods of time may be given for compliance before legal proceedings are initiated.

Legal Proceedings
Once the officer is satisfied and believes that the only way to deal with a situation is to initiate legal proceedings, he or she may choose one or a combination of three options: charges, issue or obtain an order or have the work performed by the municipality.  In the case of the latter, costs will be applied to the homeowner's municipal tax bill.  Once a charge is laid, the defendant may choose a plea of not guilty and a trial date is set.

A by-law that divides a municipality into specific areas or zones, defining how land in each zone can be used, whether for industrial, commercial, residential or other uses.  Additionally, it describes what types of uses are permitted on the property, for example, how high and large a building can be and how far it must be from other buildings and the edge of the property.  To determine zoning of your property, contact the Planning and Development Department, 905-835-2900.

Can I Change a By-law?
You can apply to change a by-law through The Council of The City of Port Colborne via the Municipal Clerk's office, 905-835-2901, Ext. 106.  If your application is denied you can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board   Its decision is final.   

A by-law that manages and enforces municipal parking.  For example, vehicles cannot park so they are obstructing driveways, fire routes, fire hydrants or sidewalks.  Prohibited parking is identified by municipal signage, particularly when it comes to disabled parking, or, in the case of temporary parking restrictions, reported in the local newspaper, i.e. no parking interfering with snow removal.


A by-law that provides that a municipality may require the owner or occupant of land to clean and clear the land .  Debris, refuse and garbage to be removed from the property, as well as grass and weeds not to exceed  15cm (6 inches).



A far-reaching by-law that prescribes standards for the maintenance and occupancy of property within the municipality.  It requires buildings and property, for health and safety reasons, to be kept in good repair and clear of debris.  As well, it defines and addresses standards for residential and non-residential properties, yards, parking areas, accessory and vacant buildings or derelict vehicles.



A by-law that addresses complaints from the general public.  Typical grievances include barking dogs, loud music, shouting or any unusual noises that may disturb the town's citizenry.



A business license is required to carry on many kinds of business or trades in town.  If you plan to open a business you must apply to the municipality, describing the kind of business and where it will be.  Staff or the planning, building and fire departments will look at the application before a final decision is made.



Although you do not require a permit to build a fence you must adhere to prescribed height and property line restrictions.  The by-law includes definitions of material restrictions and penalties for non-compliance.



A by-law that prohibits or regulates signs and other advertising devices and the posting of notices on buildings or vacant lots within any defined area of the town-including any defined highway or part of a highway.  The by-law addresses general provisions, banners, portable signs and billboards.



A permit is required to install a swimming pool.  The by-law addresses general regulations, location and plan applications, inspection, effective ground level, accessories, enclosures, plumbing, wiring, potable water and permit fees.



In order to protect agricultural land, the removal of topsoil from any property, including a sod-farm, greenhouse operation or nursery is unlawful.