Bylaw Enforcement

The attached Bylaw Enforcement Notice and Dispute Adjudication System documents will be discussed at the next regular Lasqueti Island Local Trust Committee business meeting at the Arts Centre on Thursday, July 12, 2012, beginning at 11am.

 

If you have any questions or comments, please contact your local trustees:

Peter Johnston   8785

Susan Morrison  8598

 

Printed copies of these documents will be posted at the Community Hall, Post Office, Mary Jane's and on the ferry.

AttachmentSize
12.1_ben_staff_report_lasqueti_ltc_march_15_2012-1.pdf910.83 KB
12.2_ben_brochure_-_final_version_to_printer_-_jan_16_2012_-_copy-1.pdf848.41 KB
12.3_ben_violation_notice_-_jan_26_2012_-_copy-1.pdf1.01 MB
proposed_lasqueti_ben_bylaw_87_1st_reading_and_schedule-1.pdf64.43 KB

Comments

Bylaw Enforcement bylaw

The Bylaw Enforcement bylaw is proposed to make it simpler, easier and less costly to do bylaw enforcement on Lasqueti, when it is needed. Currently, if the landowner or resident doesn't agree to comply with our bylaw, the only other thing the Trust can do is go to court and ask for a court order enforcing the bylaw. This is a slow, cumbersome and expensive process - for everyone, not just the Trust.

If there is interest, we can hold a public meeting on this topic. I look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions, or questions, on this or any other matter.

The documents are posted at the Community Hall, Post Office, MaryJane's and on the ferry.

Bylaw Enforcement bylaw

With one exception, bylaw enforcement on Lasqueti begins only when there has been a written complaint made with the Islands Trust. The exception is that occasionally advertising for Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs) on the islands are monitored to make sure that they have the appropriate zoning (C3 - Tourist Accommodation on Lasqueti).

Bylaw Enforcement

Here is a long piece I wrote to give some background information about how we come to have a ten acre minimum subdivision size, a limit of one residence per parcel, an Official Community Plan, a Land Use Bylaw, zoning and bylaw enforcement.

Susan and I would like to know what people think of this. Is there a need for a community meeting, for exchange of information and concerns? Please contact one or both of us, by telephone or email or in person. Or you can send your comments and questions to our planner, Linda Prowse, at the Gabriola Trust office - lprowse [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca 250-247-2220.

If there is interest, we will schedule a meeting. If not, we will discuss the subject at our next Local Trust Committee meeting on July 12. You can attend that meeting and let us know what you think, or you can write to us, or email us, or telephone us to let us know. We would like to hear from anyone with questions, concerns, ideas, etc.

Peter Johnston 250-333-8785 pjohnston [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca
Susan Morrison 250-333-8589 smorrison [at] islandstrust [dot] bc [dot] ca

Lasqueti Bylaw Enforcement

I apologize for the length of this. It seems important to give the background/historical information, especially for those who are relatively new to Lasqueti, and for those who have been less involved in these aspects of Lasqueti community life.

Background

This history bit is from memory. I have not done extensive research on the exact dates and order of events. I think it is substantially correct. Please let me know if I've left out anything important, or got any of the important details wrong.

Nearly forty years ago the province introduced a “ten acre freeze” in the gulf islands area, and then a few years later created the Islands Trust as a way to stop over-development and give communities a say in their development. Communities on each major island had to decide some land use issues – specifically about minimum parcel subdivision sizes.

After many meetings, and completely as a compromise (some wanted larger pieces, some smaller; we could all live with the ten acres), the people of Lasqueti decided to keep the ten acre freeze, and that became the minimum size that any new property could be divided into.

At that time there was no distinction made between residential and commercial or industrial properties. Years later we decided to institute zoning for different (non-residential uses) on Lasqueti to rationalize what was taking place on some properties. Until we did this, nearly everything was permitted anywhere, except subdivision into parcels less than ten acres.

At one point we introduced into our Land Use Bylaw a limit of one residence per parcel (or one per 10 acres for larger parcels), because we wanted to hold to the ten-acre minimum lot principle and didn't want people to have more than one home or dwelling on their parcel. We felt that it was likely that a ten acre property would be able to provide the firewood, water, garden space and other resources that residents would need. We decided at that time to also permit one guest cottage for each permitted residence. The maximum size of a guest cottage was limited (to about 600 square feet). It was generally believed that guests don't pay rent, and that owners can't be guests. I believe that this came from a legal opinion or court judgment.

Over the years more sections and provisions were added to our Official Community Plan (OCP) and Land Use Bylaw (LUB), and changes were made. Many of these changes have been made during the periodic reviews of these documents that the community and the Lasqueti Trust Committee have undertaken. Some of the changes have been required by government. The last review of the OCP and LUB was done in 2006

Bylaw enforcement in the Trust area

Bylaw enforcement in the Trust area is undertaken largely when a complaint is filed, though sometimes when an infraction like Short Term Vacation Rentals in residential properties are advertised publicly the Bylaw enforcement staff initiate action. The Bylaw enforcement staff is two full-time and one part-time people and one part-time administrative assistant.

Bylaw enforcement is primarily concerned with having people comply with our bylaws. They bring an alleged non-compliance to the notice of the person concerned (usually the resident or landowner) and if there is an infraction, they ask the person to make changes and comply with the bylaw.

When this does not happen voluntarily, the only option has been to take the person to court and seek a court order requiring compliance, and usually, if the person is found at fault, to pay a fine and the court costs. This is a slow and expensive process. Judges and courts are already overburdened with important work. The Islands Trust Executive Committee, which has to approve and authorize spending funds for this level of enforcement, is confined to acting only on extreme cases.

To introduce a simpler and more local tool for Bylaw enforcement, the provincial government has issued an Order in Council authorizing Island Trust bodies, including all 13 Local Trust Committees, for the purpose of adopting a Bylaw Enforcement Notification (BEN) Bylaw.

This bylaw introduces a system where a bylaw enforcement officer can issue a ticket for an apparent infraction. This begins a much less formal and less expensive interaction between the person and the Islands Trust bylaw enforcement department.

It is the policy of the Trust that before a ticket is issued, the person involved will be approached and, if an apparent infraction is indeed taking place, will be asked to stop or remedy the infraction and comply with the bylaw within a certain amount of time. There will be, as I understand it, warning or information tickets issued before infraction tickets (Bylaw Violation Notice (BVN) with a penalty amount prescribed) are used.

A resident or landowner who receives a Bylaw Violation Notice has two options: pay the penalty indicated or dispute the ticket if they think it is incorrectly issued. If they pay the penalty, they will be asked to also comply with the bylaw. Paying the penalty isn't permission to keep on with an infraction.

Disputing the BVN has two levels: first, an appeal to a screening officer within the Islands Trust, who can, if they feel the BVN is not justified, cancel the BVN.

The second level, adjudication, is with an independent Registry located in North Vancouver, set up specifically to adjudicate cases involving Bylaw Violation Notices. The North Vancouver Registry is the closest one to the Islands Trust area. It is anticipated that there will not be nearly enough cases to justify setting up our own Registry. BVNs can be adjudicated in writing (by mail or fax), by telephone, or in person in North Vancouver.

The situation on Lasqueti

The Bylaw Enforcement Notification bylaw, with its schedule of possible infractions, is a look at our Land Use Bylaw from a completely different viewpoint. The schedule that's part of the Bylaw does not create any new offenses; it just lists those that are already in our Land Use Bylaw. It's how a bylaw enforcement officer sees our bylaw, and it is inherent in our bylaw. If we don't like what it looks like, we should change our Land Use Bylaw, or we can adopt local policies about bylaw enforcement.

Our OCP and LUB are generally supported and respected by Lasqueti residents and landowners. I have viewed them as a statement of the desires and wishes and expectations – in short, the agreement – of Lasqueti people. Seeing it as an actual bylaw that would be enforced by the Islands Trust staff has been a shift for me. I expect it will be for others, too.

At our meeting May 3, we gave the bylaw first reading, and decided to circulate notification about it to Lasqueti people, and post copies so that everyone could become aware of it. Both Susan and I would very much like to hear what you think about it – about the whole process of bylaw enforcement and about the details of this particular draft bylaw and other materials.

joseph's picture

Where does this road lead to?

I totally understand the need for the BEN bylaw - I shutter to think of tying up court time and tax-payer money with minor bylaw infractions, and I know for sure that some people will simply not comply with a bylaw they find inconvenient unless someone holds a very big stick. So a simple tool to "help" us all adhere to the OCP and LUB we have agreed to seems like a good idea.

On the other hand, Lasqueti is blissfully free of the bureaucratic quagmire of bylaws and enforcement officers that is "normal" elsewhere. I worry we are opening the door here - just a crack, I understand, but nonetheless, we can see clearly where this door leads, and it's a place I suspect few of us would go willingly.

Since, we are trading one thing away to get something else, I want to know more about the costs and benefits. For starters,

1) how many bylaw enforcement cases on Lasqueti could not be resolved with warning notices and have ended up going to court?
and how many of those were decided in favour of the Trust?

2) how will the Trust fund the extra bylaw enforcement work that will no doubt come with the BEN?

3) will the BEN be of any use to us in enforcing a parking bylaw (if we should ever draft one)?

Bylaw Enforcement Bylaw? Honestly??

I think this “Bylaw Enforcement Bylaw” is a step in the wrong direction. If the very name of this beast doesn’t strike fear into you, consider this: how many times have you walked the roads of this island and found yourself wishing for a bylaw enforcement officer to make your life complete? And how many stories can you tell me that feature a bylaw enforcement officer saving the day by holding up the intent of the law in the face of serious adversity? I can think of one or two, but they are far outnumbered by stories I know of bylaw enforcement officers making someone’s life miserable by sticking them with the letter of the law in situations that the makers of the law almost certainly didn’t have in mind when they wrote that piece of legislation.
If I understand you correctly, this Bylaw Enforcement Bylaw is proposed as a remedy to the fact that our land use bylaws are currently hard and expensive to enforce and that enforcement is therefore only pursued for severe infractions. I would suggest that this current state of affairs might actually not be such a bad thing. The rules a community lives by are much more dynamic and nuanced than their legal expressions can ever be, and community members generally tend to follow those rules willingly. Laws are primarily necessary as a course of last resort to deal with the occasional offender who can’t be convinced by any other means to behave in a socially appropriate way. It is extremely difficult to create a law that has even marginally sensible results when always enforced and followed to the letter. That’s why laws tend to be awkward and inadequate tools when one attempts to use them as a pressure tactic to keep a community on track for the communal master plan, even if that master plan does express the wishes and ideals of the majority. The Lasqueti OCP and LUB are no exceptions to that, as is (in my mind at least) clearly illustrated by the somewhat bizarre schedule of infractions arising from them. I wasn’t here when those documents were put together, but do those infractions really sound like the essence of what people had in mind as the vision for where this community should, and should not, be headed? I have a strong feeling that a lot was lost in the translation to legalese.
In my mind, we currently have exactly what’s needed: an OCP and LUB that primarily exist as statements of intent, but can be legally enforced as a means of last resort to deal with the occasional asocial individual that persistently and egregiously ignores the intent of those documents. Do we really have a non-compliance problem on Lasqueti that’s serious enough to require major changes to the way infractions are handled? I wasn’t aware that we do, but if this is indeed the case, I believe making enforcement easier and punishing non-compliance more promptly and consistently may not be the right answer. If there is a substantial segment of the population that ignores a bylaw, this is probably happening because the bylaw is in some way out of touch with the needs and reality of at least some part of the community. The appropriate action in this case would be to initiate a process that gives the community as a whole a chance to express opinions on the issues, with the option to change the enforcement model for all or part of the LUB, but also the option to revise the law to better reflect the current situation if there is an emerging consensus that this would be a more appropriate course.

We can deal with this ourselves

I agree with Joseph and Brigitte, and.....

We do not need more bureaucracy when we can deal with these issues ourselves; and likely with all of Harper's cut backs, that's exactly what we're going to get anyways.

Plus, if we start relying on "enforcement officers", it's only because we've failed as a community to organize and deal with the issues ourselves. Direct organized community pressure is extremely effective and that is where our real strength lies..... with us, not some outside legal entity that is only interested in enforcing the law; not our values or lifestyle. As my law prof stated, "The law is the lowest commonly agreed upon enforceable standard. And ultimately, it's enforced with the business end of a gun." And that kind of organized violence is certainly something I never want to see out here.

Answers to Joseph's questions

Joseph (above) asked these questions. Here are some answers:

1) how many bylaw enforcement cases on Lasqueti could not be resolved with warning notices and have ended up going to court?
and how many of those were decided in favour of the Trust?

I have been unable to find out how many complaints have been reported from or about Lasqueti, except that the answer is "very few". There is one still unresolved complaint about a guest house/residence situation, where there are apparently two residences on one parcel. The bylaw enforcement coordinator has written a report, essentially saying that our bylaw on this is not easily enforceable. It is posted on the Trust website at http://islandstrust.bc.ca/ltc/la/pdf/larptguestcabinsep022010.pdf
No Lasqueti cases have gone to the BC Supreme Court, as far as I know.

2) how will the Trust fund the extra bylaw enforcement work that will no doubt come with the BEN?

They say that there will be no extra work - that the BEN bylaw system will allow them to resolve most situations much more simply and easily. There is no plan to increase the budget or staff for bylaw enforcement. If there ever is, it would be funded, like almost everything else, by Trust area property taxpayers.

3) will the BEN be of any use to us in enforcing a parking bylaw (if we should ever draft one)?

Parking, except as a land use issue in our zoning, is not a Trust responsibility or area it can regulate. Highways owns and controls the roads, but does not provide or (except in extreme situations) control parking on road allowances. Powell River Regional District could pass parking bylaws for Lasqueti, and possibly there could be an Islands Trust/PRRD agreement that the Trust bylaw enforcement officers could do or help with the enforcement.

In my experience, if the community agrees what we'd like a bylaw to say, most people will comply most of the time.

Susan and I are planning to schedule a community information meeting on the BEN Bylaw topic, probably early in the second half of June. We hope to announce the date and time soon, and look forward to the discussion and exchange of ideas. Keep them coming until then, so we have more sense of the range of views and opinions.

joseph's picture

Thanks!

Thanks Peter - that's important information for trying to figure out whether this thing is even necessary on Lasqueti --
Is the decision about the BEN Bylaw Trust-wide, or does each Local have their own say?

One clarification on the answers you so kindly dug up:
"They say that there will be no extra work - that the BEN bylaw system will allow them to resolve most situations much more simply and easily."

I'm honestly trying to understand the logic in this (not being cynical):
- the BEN allows the Trust Bylaw Enforcement (TBE) folks to "write a ticket" for infractions that can't be resolved via preliminary resolution processes / warnings;
- once the ticket is issued, there is a separate dispute resolution process through an office in North Vancouver (which is "a simple and easy" resolution for the TBE);
- this frees up time, allowing the TBE to pursue more cases;
- thus improving the efficiency of the TBE without increasing any costs.

Do I have that right Peter?

BEN bylaw

The idea came from Trust Council, with trustees from all islands, but it is to be adopted - or not - by each island. As I understand it, each island can, if it adopts this, or a modification of this, bylaw, adopt policies about how specific parts of the bylaw are enforced. To me, it seems like modifying the attached schedule of contraventions and penalties is a much smarter thing to do. It seems silly (at best) to me to pass a bylaw and then pass another bylaw or policy about how it should be, or should not be, enforced.

Basically, the BEN process would create a dispute adjudication procedure that is much less onerous and expensive than the current only option (if negotiation with the landowner/tenant fails) of seeking a court order. The matter would be adjudicated by a much less formal and less intimidating/expensive/onerous process, by phone, in writing or in person in North Vancouver. (The reason it's N.Van is that they have the closest one already set up; the Trust doesn't anticipate having anywhere enough cases to set up our own.)

I don't think the new process would free up much bylaw enforcement time. If it does, the Trust would need to decide if the current people (2 full time, 2 part time) would work harder doing more enforcement, or reduce their hours spent on bylaw enforcement. I'd support the latter.

The main advantage of the BEN bylaw is that there is somewhere to go if negotiation with the landowner/tenant fails to achieve resolution or compliance. Often (though I don't know how often) the matter isn't major enough for the executive to authorize the expense of seeking a court order. In some cases - short term vacation rentals is one example - the situation on some islands was so much an issue that seeking a court order was approved. People were ordered to stop renting their residential properties for less than one month, and agencies were ordered to stop providing short-term rental services except where the appropriate zoning was in place.

We will be scheduling a public meeting on the BEN bylaw shortly after the middle of June. Everyone is welcome to bring their questions, concerns, suggestions, idease and comments.

Hope this is helpful. If not, please ask.

joseph's picture

The end of the road...

Thanks Peter - sounds like you've got some clear ideas about how this thing might be implemented in a balanced way.

In my first comment I asked "Where does this road lead to?"
Last weekend in Victoria I spotted this article on the front page that so perfectly illustrates that destination I so desperately want to avoid:
http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Jack+Knox+column+Farmers+miffed+...

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