January 15, 2008
Those wishing to build a backyard pool in the City of Toronto have a new hurdle to clear, or in this case a fence.

In late November, city council voted 30 to 7 approving Bylaw 1240-2007, which is an amendment covering construction of swimming pools in the city. The new amendment requires builders to surround a pool on all four sides between the house and the pool.

“This bylaw defies logic,” says Kent Ford, a designer and project management consultant for commercial and residential landscaping architecture projects. “The city has gone too far,” said the Toronto-based designer.

Councillors who supported the amendment, say they voted in favour of the new requirement in an effort to prevent drowning deaths among children. Ford, who has served on the designers’ commodity group with LO, says the city never consulted with those in the industry before passing this amendment.

Councillor Shelley Carroll has stated, “We need every deterrent we can to prevent them (children) from getting out the door to the pool.” Ford sees this as another in a long line of over-reaction and over-protection legislation. “This from a city that is already way over its head in debt,” said Ford.

For those wishing to build a new pool, the bylaw will definitely add more to the overall construction bill. Previous to the amendment, backyards with pools were required to be surrounded by fencing to prevent access from outside the property area.

Councillor Rob Ford (no relation to Kent) said the bylaw change will open a Pandora’s Box. “I think our existing bylaws are more than sufficient. Being an owner of a pool, I know the safety issues that are involved. I think the existing bylaws are fine. Throwing up more red tape here, which is all this is, won’t resolve much,” he said.

“They (council) are basically double-bagging the pool area now,” said Kent Ford. He said that the new requirement will create an area not unlike a dog-run, where a child can be left outside of the house, with parents feeling they are sealed off from the pool.

For designers like Kent Ford, the bylaw will present new challenges to create esthetically pleasing designs. For those who can afford the service, they will need designers who have the capability to eliminate the ugly factor of a chain-link fence surrounding the pool.

“It’s not impossible for those who know what they are doing. In the past we created designs for clients who wanted to have the extra protection for children around the pool.”

Ford isn’t worried whether designers will be able to overcome the extra barrier; he is concerned with the growing trend among elected officials to pass laws that are more to do with over-reaction than reality.