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2018 Elections – Candidates Perspectives on Bylaw Enforcement

    Editorial & Opinions, Election Candidates    October 11, 2018

In the lead up to Election Day on October 20th, 2018, the Community Alliance will post answers from candidates to crucial questions. Today, we focus on Bylaw Enforcement.

Question: Do you have interest in finding alternatives to complaint-driven enforcement of bylaws? If yes, what alternatives would you suggest?

Sabrina Ali (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Yes, the complaint driven system does not seem to be working well, as it results in a patchwork of bylaw enforcement and can result in neighborhood discord.

A restorative justice model is the best practice where there will be a continuing relationship between the parties. As the purpose of our bylaws is to enable us to live in harmony, it seems sensible to transform an adversarial process into a consensus building one. This could be done at the monthly town hall meetings or as an associated procedure.
I would also encourage voluntary stewardship of the natural environment (per the Islands Trust Strategic Plan.)

Kylie Coates (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Yes when a complaint is given. The complaint should be looked at seriously first who is the person complaining Second The complaint should be given to the home or business and see if it can be resolved also no more anonymous complaints

Peter Grove (candidate for Islands Trustee):

I am certainly open to exploring alternatives. At present on SSI the Islands Trust by-law enforcement officers follow up on complaints, which are completely confidential, and also pursue bylaw enforcement proactively, as in the case of STVRs. I do not know about the CRD policies and approach to enforcement. If there are better ways of managing this process I would like to hear about them.

Gary Holman (candidate for CRD Director):

Bylaw enforcement is one of the most difficult issues local governments throughout the province must face. It is important that elected officials do not politicize specific enforcement cases. In general, if the alternatives are pro-active or no enforcement at all, I believe that a complaint-based process aimed at resolution not punishment, can be effective, assuming that the parties are acting in good faith.

As CRD Director, I did on several occasions, depending on the nature of the concern, bring together disputing parties with CRD and Islands Trust enforcement staff and the local RCMP to explore possible resolution without resorting to formal actions such as ticketing or costly court action. My understanding of bylaw enforcement best practices is that the goal is to work towards or achieve compliance, not to punish. My experience as an elected official supports this approach.

A particularly divisive issue was the CRD-licensed transfer station on Lee Hill, where I brought the operator and neighbors together to identify the concerns and encourage the operator to take specific actions to address them. I do not claim that all parties were satisfied with this process, only that at least some of their valid concerns were better recognized and addressed while avoiding costly and divisive bylaw enforcement or litigation.

Another important bylaw enforcement issue has emerged recently regarding non-conforming residential uses and short term vacation rentals (STVRs). Given the current affordable housing crisis, I support an enforcement policy that pro-actively pursues illegal STVRs, which drive up property values and reduce the stock of year round housing. In this current crisis, I believe that low impact, non-conforming residential uses that are not posing an imminent safety or health threat, should be our lowest priority for bylaw enforcement, and that pro-active enforcement of these situations should not be pursued. At the same time, I would encourage landowners in such circumstances to work with the Trust and CRD to regularize their situations, consistent with the progressive policies of our current Official Community Plan. I would be please to assist with such situations if all parties felt it would be useful.

Howard Holzapfel (candidate for Islands Trustee):

I think enforcement on SSI will always be complaint-driven in the sense that we can’t possibly have patrols sufficient to apprehend all lawbreakers and will need citizens reporting infractions. In instances of building infractions by new owners, mandatory reports of condition and applicable by-laws should be provided by the sellers’ agents including pending projects in the area. Education by these professionals can head off many future problems.

Laura Patrick (candidate for Islands Trustee):

The Islands Trust bylaw enforcement program should be a mixture of voluntary compliance and enforcement. A voluntary compliance program includes public education, informal resolution, warnings, and alternatives for dispute resolution. People should understand what is expected of them and be provided the tools and shown the pathways to achieve compliance. We do, unfortunately, need to maintain enforcement strategies such as the ability to issue bylaw offence notices, seek injunctions, take direct enforcement action, and to prosecute. These enforcement strategies should only be used for repeat offenders or for severe cases.

I have said that there are some island residents who do not know much about the Islands Trust or that it even exists. If you are learning about the Islands Trust for the first time because you received a notice of bylaw enforcement, then it is clear that the Trust’s public education and communication program was not effective for you.

If elected, I will assess the staff resources that are devoted to encouraging voluntary compliance, responding to questions, recording complaints, investigating complaints, and explaining enforcement processes. I will also assess whether staff are considering other alternatives when addressing complaints. For example, staff might suggest or propose amendments to the bylaws if such changes can effectively address our needs, and protect our water resources.

I know that the Trust must do a better job at seeking voluntary compliance through an improved public education and communication program.

Robin Williams (candidate for CRD Director):

Bylaws are in place or a reason and if they are violated and this is a problem then it at least needs to be examined. It is the resolution that needs to be address. From the CRD side the building inspection department should be directed to assist in the resolution of the problem. This generally means bringing building systems up to code. I am also on record as opposing any current moves that would evicted an individual from reasonable shelter until a solution is found to the current near state of emergency in housing that is affordable.

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