RDN to improve ways to deal with bylaw disputes

RDN to improve ways to deal with bylaw disputes

New system being explored that will be more efficient and effective

The Regional District of Nanaimo is planning to implement a more efficient and effective system of dealing with bylaw disputes.

At present, the regional district uses the Municipal Ticket System to administer citations for bylaw contraventions, which manager of building and bylaw services, Tom Armet, reported to the committee of the whole at its meeting on July 10, does not support effective and cost efficient compliance, or represent best practices in bylaw enforcement.

Under the present system, the RDN must serve tickets personally and they can only be disputed in provincial court. Armet said that means legal counsel is required to apply for a hearing date in Provincial Court, liaise with the person disputing the ticket, direct the collection of evidence from the bylaw enforcement officer and witnesses, serve legal documents and argue the case in court before a judge or justice of the peace.

Armet stated local government bylaw matters are not a priority for the provincial court system which leads to delays and adding costs and inconvenience to witnesses and staff. Whether successful or not, it could cost the RDN $2,000 to $6,500 or more in legal fees.

The RDN is now looking at switching to a Bylaw Dispute Adjudication System under the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act, which was established by the province in 2003 to serve as a framework for streamlined non-judicial system for local governments to deal with bylaw ticket dispute. Currently, more than 80 jurisdictions in BC are using the system that can be applied to both municipalities and regional districts by regulation.

The BDAS makes local government bylaw contravention enforcement efficient and less expensive by providing a more accessible venue for determining simple bylaw contraventions. It also reduces demands on the court system, is less expensive to administer than the court process, and better balances between the amount of the penalty imposed and the cost of pursuing the bylaw contravention in court.

Issuing citations under this system do not require personal service, which can be difficult to achieve if the person cannot be located. Under the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act, a Bylaw Notice may be delivered in a variety of fashions including leaving it on a car or mailing it to the person responsible for the contravention.

Once the Bylaw Notice is received or presumed to be received, it becomes legally effective and the recipient has a fixed period of time in which to take action on it. The person may pay the fine amount or notify the local government that he or she wishes to dispute the allegation. In the event the person does neither, the amount of the notice will be due and owing.

The committee of the whole endorsed the Bylaw Dispute Adjudication System for the board’s approval and also directed staff to prepare bylaws, policies and agreements for the implementation as well as working with Court Services Branch, Ministry of Attorney General to request the Lieutenant Governor in Council of the Province of British Columbia enact a Regulation under Section 29 of the Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act, applying the Act to the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Electoral Area F director Julian Fell was the only one that voted against the proposed new system.