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21 Comments

cityscape

Mississauga Hangs Clotheslines Out to Dry

City's recent bylaw lays down strict rules about drying laundry—and it's a mistake.

The City of Mississauga has regulated clotheslines. As per a new bylaw, passed and enacted July 2, households in the land of Hazel McCallion are permitted one line each, hung straight, at least 1.5 metres from the property line, and no more than three metres off the ground. The bylaw does not specify what the consequences of violating these specifications would be.

The new rules reportedly arose from a letter sent to city council by local resident Steve DeVoe. His neighbour has been hanging up to 18 clotheslines as high as six metres, right by their shared fence line—apparently in retaliation for DeVoe’s having built a larger house four years ago. DeVoe took the issue to the City, and the ol’ bureaucratic machine kicked into motion.

Two neighbours have a beef with each other, one writes a letter, and city council passes a bylaw. So what? Well, clotheslines are actually an integral part of eco-friendly living.

Air Quality Ontario has found that a clothes dryer uses 900 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, resulting in up to 840 kilograms of air pollution—or roughly the equivalent of burning 365 litres of gasoline.

“Adopting environmentally responsible behaviours like using a clothesline or drying rack is a small action that can have a significant impact on our environment,” says Peter Kendall, executive director of Earth Rangers, a conservation organization that educates and empowers youth to protect the environment. “Making small changes like hang-drying even part of your weekly laundry will result in long-term, positive benefits for the environment.”

Not since the collapse of the Siegfried Line has hanging laundry been such a hot button issue. Clothesline bylaws are rare in Canada. Toronto, for instance, doesn’t have any rules about clotheslines on single-family properties. An old City of Etobicoke bylaw regulates lines for multi-residential properties. “It is not something that we would be out proactively enforcing,” says City of Toronto communications representative Tammy Robbinson, “but if we received a complaint from a resident, we would go out and investigate.  We always do public education first, and enforcement after.”

Clotheslines were deemed important enough for the Ontario government to end restrictions against them in the Ontario Green Energy Act of 2008. The legislation was designed to overturn any municipal, developer, and landlord bans on clotheslines, except those enacted in the interest of safety. Mississauga’s bylaw states that “clotheslines shall be maintained in a safe and reasonable condition so as to prevent accidents and safety hazards.” The City of Mississauga determined that its bylaw jibes with the Energy Act as it regulates but does not ban clotheslines. But it does limit their use in the sense that you can only hang so much laundry on one line.

The new clothesline by-law isn’t an environmental catastrophe, but it is indicative of a disappointing attitude—the prioritizing of convenience over actual ecological benefit—that butts up against environmentalism. And, okay, maybe DeVoe’s offending neighbour had something other than clean living in mind with their billowing of laundry. But Mississauga’s willingness to make this bylaw is a bow to every homeowner bugged by next-door’s clothesline. Worse than “not in my backyard,” it’s “not even next to my backyard.” Here’s hoping Toronto maintains its moratorium on clothesline regulation.

Comments

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    “The ol’ bureaucratic machine”?

    The short CBC article that’s linked doesn’t indicate whether City of Mississauga staff (i.e. bureaucrats) were consulted, or were in favour of or against the bylaw. As stated, it was a letter to the elected members of Mississauga City Council—and councilmembers propose and vote for bylaws, not city staff.

    Maybe you meant to write, “the ol’ NIMBY-pandering, populist political machine”.

  • allyson

    Some communities have bylaws that say clotheslines are forbidden because they are an “eyesore”.
    Those kind of bylaws should not be able to exist in this country.

    • Canadianskeezix

      Such laws are no longer valid in Ontario.

      • allyson

        I have friends that live in one such neighbourhood.

  • wklis

    Maybe if one neighbour annexed the other… else we’ll have to bring in the United Nations peace keepers.

  • OgtheDim

    I’m trying to figure out what the problem the writer has. He seems to be suggesing that clothes lines are a good thing and this law is against clotheslines.

    Nobody is banning clotheslines.

    Just banning use beyond a certainlimit. Now, maybe 1 isn’t enough – that I could kind of understand. But, maybe, 18 of them is a bit much?

    Really, does somebody need 18 of them?

    So instead of fomenting against anti-clothesline legislation, which this isn’t, maybe a discussion of what would be appropriate for a single family dwelling might be in line?

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      The writer is suggesting that one person’s ridiculous grudge against another – a single letter representing the interests of a single resident – isn’t something city council should be basis bylaws on.

      Now someone with, say, three clothes lines and on good terms with their neighbours, is breaking the law.

      • Canadianskeezix

        Agree with rek. A law enacted to respond to one unusual situation tends to make bad law. Some regulation might have been appropriate (perhaps a height limit), but Mississauga seems to have gone the way of the typical municipal response, which is to over-regulate.

  • nevilleross

    If people can’t hang a lot of clothes on several lines, then they can always go to a laundromat. That’s what they’re there for.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      “No dry only” is a policy at the laundromat I used to use before moving out of the area, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s pretty common.

    • Canadianskeezix

      That’s a terrible solution. Defeats all of the objectives of hanging clothes out on a clothesline.

  • davidculham

    What exaggerated misrepresentation! By-laws are put in place to avoid the most difficult harmful interactions. The new by-law on reflection is reasonable in height limitation and number and distance from the property line. 99% of our people will be able to live with it without a problem. I personally hang myclothes in side without the use of a dryer on a “fold away” but young families would have a problem with this. One line is a good adaptation to a need to conserve energy. You did not related just what a sick bastard the neighbour is with the height, volume raining or not and clothes that they would never wear.

    • Canadianskeezix

      Like I said above, a law enacted to respond to one unusual situation tends to make bad law. While some regulation is fine, it’s unclear to me how three clotheslines (for example), if kept at an appropriate height, adversely impact a neighbour more than one clothesline. It’s not up to you, or me, to declare one line is sufficient to meet the environmental and clothes-drying needs of any given household. While I agree with you that some regulation was necessary to respond to this particular situation, Mississauga did what municipalities tend to do: over-regulate and over-prescribe.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        I’m not sure regulation of any kind was called for, really. Ultimately it’s a squabble between two neighbours without any physical harm or loss of property (for them or any third parties), so why should the city get involved?

        If the clothes lines in this case were in fact an act of protest, Mississauga is now regulating speech.

        • Canadianskeezix

          That I disagree with. Municipal by-laws of all kinds regulate how people use real property, and the objective is usually to prevent and/or resolve disputes between neighbours. That’s what cities do. It’s not unreasonable to prevent people from creating this type of eyesore. If you don’t think it’s an eyesore, then good for you. I’ll alert your neighbours.

          And this is no more free speech than storing garbage on one’s front lawn. Antagonizing one’s neighbour is not an act of protest.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            From the sounds of it, the neighbour started the antagonizing by building a bigger house on the property.

        • nevilleross

          The law was probably devised to keep people from making their living space into a pigsty/shithole, similar to the regulations that apartments have for the tenant to keep their place in good condition (i.e., no hoarding.) I see no problem with this other than people crying ‘won’t somebody think of the environment?’ due to people having to use dryers more.

          • Mr Trainbeans

            “I think clotheslines look bad” is a subjective statement, while “Clotheslines save X amount of energy and do not make a house less habitable” is an objective one. Why does your arbitrary and non-rational opinion on what qualifies as a “shithole” trump a real, measurable quantity like energy usage? It takes energy to run a dryer, but it doesn’t take any energy at all to adjust your opinions to align better with reality. “Reality”, if you’re confused, is everything that doesn’t go away once you stop caring about or believing in it.

          • nevilleross

            There’s a way to hang clothes without making your place look like a pigsty (drying posts, hanging trees, etc.)-the problem is most people who hang clothes to dry don’t do that, and so they just hang clothes haphazardly, which is what pissed off the man in question to complain to the mayor’s office enough for the Mississauga city council to pass this regulation.

            If people were/are so concerned about power use from a dryer, then they should be supporting the building of nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, we all know how most people are with that, so we get what we’ve got right now.

            And no, sir, there’s nothing wrong with using a dryer.

  • Notcleverguy

    Toronto can’t kick out a lying crack head Mayor, but Mississauga regulates clothes lines.
    To me there is a problem with priorities here.

  • nevilleross

    It is everybody’s business if too many clotheslines are hung in a backyard and it makes the property in question look uncared for or offends the neighbors. One clothesline (or two) is enough, not 18. This is the same thing as leaving one’s apartment cluttered in too much junk or leaving it a pigsty/uncleaned, and usually gets complaints from the landlord, or citations from the city acting on complaints from a neighbor.