By Jim Holtz, Rossland News
By-law enforcement throughout the regional district may be about to get some teeth.
At the moment, in many municipalities in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), the only recourse for enforcing fines imposed for bylaw infractions is to go to court, an expensive and time-consuming process.
Under the new system—recommended in a staff report to the RDKB—although a fine could be disputed, if upheld, it could not be ignored as failure to pay it would result in the debt being registered as a lien against the disputant’s property.
According to RDKB chief administrative officer John MacLean, the program is a lot easier to deal with.
“You don’t have to access the courts; you don’t have to ask the chief justice to sign off on things,” he said. “It is just a little easier for us to administer.”
The new system would also be of benefit to residents.
“We will have a process,” MacLean said, “that we can easily explain and everybody will understand without having to engage in the court process.”
MacLean admitted the RDKB didn’t have many bylaws to begin with, and there were only a few bylaw infractions that were disputed. Still, the framework would allow all regional municipalities to coordinate its bylaw enforcement practices with the new system.
“The more people that are in on the process gives us more opportunity to share costs,” he said.
The new system is made possible through the province’s Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act. Under the act, regional districts and municipalities may adopt a bylaw notice dispute adjudication system that replaces the provincial court as the only means to resolve disputes of minor bylaw breaches.
MacLean said that he believed once the framework was in place, it was likely all municipalities—including Rossland which does not have bylaw adjudication—would take advantage of the savings in cost and manpower that the adjudication system offers.
Under the new system, a schedule of applicable bylaws would be drawn up along with the monetary penalties for contravention and the length of time permitted to pay or dispute the bylaw.
A new system of adjudication would be established for disputes that would include a screening officer with the power to cancel the bylaw infraction notice or amend the penalty.
If the disputant was not happy with the screening officer’s judgement, an independent adjudicator with the authority to determine whether or not a bylaw was in fact contravened, would be appointed.
Neither adjudication requires court time and both can be held in a variety of venues that the parties agree to ahead of time.
Once the process was complete, however, any fines upheld by the adjudicator must be paid. A collection agency will be used if required, and fines still not collected will be registered as a lien against the disputant’s property.