Proposed Regulations - Residential Gardening within the ROW

The proposed regulations consider that ROW areas have multiple uses across many users. ROW’s are used by motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and utility providers such as gas, water, hydro, and telecommunications. Utilities may be housed above or below the ground within the ROW, and there is often maintenance activity within ROW’s which can include utility work, City maintenance, or City capital projects. Modernizing the Use and Care of Roads By-law will provide residents with more gardening options, while also ensuring that the ROW remains safe and accessible to City operations, utilities, and other users.

Having reviewed other Canadian municipalities and comparing best practices, staff are proposing a non-permit approach. By-law requirements and guidelines will set the parameters for gardening opportunities within the ROW. The intended result is that residents may undertake gardening projects within the abutting ROW, subject to the by-law terms and guidelines, without having to obtain permission from the City.

Residential Gardening within the ROW

Proposed Regulation


Only soft landscaping to be permitted.

-Promotes opportunities for diversity of vegetation and contributes to climate resiliency.

-Hard landscaping materials such as pavers and other impervious materials risk decreasing the permeable surface.

-Hard landscaping materials such as riverstone or gravel risk creating a tripping hazard if they wash onto the sidewalk, and can impede snow clearing operations.

Noxious weeds and Invasive Species will not be permitted.

Noxious weeds and invasive species are proposed to be those defined in the Ontario Invasive Species Act, as well as the Ontario Weed Control Act.

Consumables (vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts & seeds, etc) will not be permitted.

At this time it is not being proposed to permit consumables (the growing of food) within the City’s ROW. The City may consider reviewing this policy in the future as it relates to improving food security.

Only hand-digging will be permitted for the installation of residential gardens.

To ensure the protection of underground utilities such as gas lines, hydro lines and telecommunication cables as well as tree roots, mechanical excavation is not proposed to be permitted.

A resident may only install a residential garden within the ROW directly abutting their own property, unless written permission is obtained from the neighbouring property owner.

Currently, residential property owners are required to cut the grass on the ROW abutting their property.

Under the proposed regulations for resident gardening within the ROW, residential property owners would also be responsible for any gardening within the ROW abutting their property. Because of this, written permission from the neighbouring property owner must be obtained before the installation of any ROW garden abutting that property.

No gardening within a ditch will be permitted.

Ditches are designed to move stormwater out of a neighbourhood. Any modification to a ditch can result in impacts to the ditch’s ability to move stormwater and provide adequate drainage of the area.

Information on ditch and the City’s maintenance of these areas can be found at: Ditches and Drains | City of Ottawa

No plants will be permitted to exceed a maximum height of 0.75 metres.

A maximum height limit is proposed to help ensure the safe movement of vehicles in and out of driveways.

The proposed height limit is the same as is currently found in the City of Ottawa’s Zoning and Fence By-laws related to the maximum height of visibility triangles for corner lots.

No residential gardening will be permitted within one (1.0) metre of the edge of roadway where no curb exists.

To ensure parking is unencumbered on streets with no curb. It is not proposed to allow residents to garden to the edge of the roadway where no curb exists.

Additionally, this will help to reduce the potential impact on residential gardens from snow clearing operations and salt damages.

Sidewalks must remain clear and unobstructed.

To allow for unobstructed and accessible use of City sidewalks, no residential garden may grow onto or over a sidewalk.

Proposed minimum distance from existing elements within the ROW

Residential gardening must not be located within one (1.0) metre of a City tree as measured from the trunk.

A minimum distance from a tree trunk is proposed to help ensure the critical root zone of the tree is protected.

Fire Hydrants – ROW gardening will not be permitted within a 1.5 metre radius of a fire hydrant, as well as within a three (3.0) metre wide corridor from the fire hydrant to the roadway.

This ensures that fire hydrants remain readily accessible in the event of an emergency, as well as accessible for any required maintenance.

City of Ottawa Water By-law No. 2019-74, as amended, requires fire hydrants be kept clear in accordance with the minimum distances proposed.

Hydro Transformers – ROW gardening will not be permitted within a 1.5 metre radius at the back or sides of a hydro transformer, as well as a three (3.0) metre wide corridor from the front of a transformer to a ROW gardening project.

This ensures that hydro transformers remain readily accessible in the event of an emergency, as well as accessible for any required maintenance.

This follows Electrical Safety Authority guidelines Planting Under or Around Powerlines & Electrical Equipment (

Catch basins and manholes – Residential gardening will not be permitted within 1.5 metres of a catch basin and manhole.

This proposed setback helps to ensure that City maintenance operations are not impeded, and that the necessary equipment can be brought in for access.

Utility Infrastructure other than a hydro transformer (e.g., Gas and Telecommunication pedestals, grade level boxes, hydro poles, guide wires) and City signage - Residential gardening will not be permitted within one (1.0) metre of utility infrastructure and City signage.

This proposed setback ensures sufficient space for access and maintenance of utility infrastructure and assists in preventing damage.

OC Transpo Bus Stops – Residential gardening will not be permitted within the area of an OC Transpo bus stop as shown below:

The proposed setbacks from OC Transpo bus stops are proposed to ensure the continued safe operation of OC Transpo services, including the maintenance and operation of bus stops.

Categories: Residential Gardening in ROW
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