Friday, August 27, 2010

Municipal Bylaws: Enforcement, Compliance or Service?

It is summertime and the Okanagan is thriving with tourists and recreational activities. The weather is beautiful and our orchards are ripe with Mother Nature's goodness. Our lakes offer an amazing amenity for those who come from other areas and try to enjoy what we have all year around. But with that, some trouble comes too. Lack of parking, noise, unsightly premises and other issues cause frictions that can become hotter than the weather we are enjoying these days.

The local newspapers picked on Lake Country's bylaw system of enforcement to make an issue of it and hammer on a seasonal diatribe that is increasing and will continue to increase with the rising and well established popularity of beautiful Okanagan Valley in beautiful British Columbia.

Until a few months ago, Lake Country did not have a Bylaw Enforcement Department. This service was provided through a contract agreement with the BC Commissionaires. Unless you have in-house officers, there are limitations to what can be accomplished through contracted services. The decision was made by Council to bring this service in-house and begin a more organized approach to enforcement.

We can discuss Bylaw Enforcement for ages. It is indeed a complex topic. I am not going to do that. However, I wish to clarify some basic points and foundational principles that, I hope, can bring some understanding of this service.

Local Governments have the authority to adopt bylaws for a number of issues for which they have jurisdiction. Most of these bylaws have enforcement provisions and the taxpayers expect those provisions to be applied. This is a reasonable expectation but it cannot be done every time.

First of all, the reason why we have bylaws is to regulate public behaviour and to accomplish peace and order in our community (I did not say society because that is a responsibility of other levels of government, and laws exist to that effect). So each community has different regulations about same or similar behaviours. For instance noise issues are different in Kelowna, or for that matter Peachland and other municipalities, than in Lake Country. Enforcement regulations are also different because the bylaws differ as well.

Because the primary purpose of bylaws is to have peace and order in the community, the effect that we wish to obtain is compliance. In other words, if a local government decided to have any loud noise cease at 11pm every night and someone, either not knowing the bylaw or wanting to push the proverbial button, has a party that creates loud noise beyond that 11pm time limit, that local government final goal is to have that individual refraining from repeating that behaviour in the future. In fact, to cease the behaviour immediately.

The odds are that infractions happen every day and many times. The area under our jurisdiction is also fairly large (48 square miles) and we can afford only one (yes 1) Bylaw Officer. The rest can be easily guessed. We can only do what we can. So Lake Country's policy is that we first act if we receive a complaint. And we receive a number of them. The one and only officer has limited time and resources and is spread thin trying to respond to complaints and investigate issues. He seeks compliance first and then, if after reasonable time is given compliance is not obtained, 'enforcement' is applied. 

Enforcement can be done in a number of ways and because we brought this service in-house only recently, we are equipping ourselves with all the tools needed to make life easier to our Bylaw Officer in responding more effectively, timely and efficiently to bylaw infraction issues. I think that by next Summer will be more effective in the delivery of this service because the tools, or the majority of them, will be in place by then.

I also wish to clarify what Bylaw Enforcement is not.  

  1. It is not a way to solve a dispute between neighbours. If you have a grudge against your neighbour and you believe there is a bylaw infraction, chances are that it may not be so and our Bylaw Officer will tell you that. You will not be happy, but a civil dispute can only be dealt with civilly and through the courts. We can't give your neighbour a ticket because his fence line is within your property. It is not against our Zoning Bylaw or our Subdivision Bylaw. 
  2. Even if you have the right to go to Council and ask for leniency about a bylaw infraction you committed, Council can only deal with the bylaw or policy, not with the individual infraction. Bylaws are applied to all citizens, no exceptions. Those who commit an infraction have always an excuse. If you wish to fight it, again, you have legal recourse. But Council will politely listen but will not be able to ask the Bylaw Officer to reverse his decision.
  3. Our Bylaw Officer is not a police officer. He does not work shifts, he does not deal with crime, and he does not deal with vandalism, altercations, drunks and so on. He only deals with municipal bylaws and those only. And he does it from 8:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon. The RCMP has the authority to deal with municipal bylaws after hours. So, if there is excessive noise at night and you wish to have it dealt with immediately, you can call the police. But beware that they will put the call on a priority roster. If there is an accident or a crime happening, that will take precedence.

Now, one of the tools we are setting up is to have an Adjudication System which will provide a form of appeal of penalties applied for bylaw infractions. We are working on it and we hope to have it ready by the Fall.

In the meantime, please behave, and enjoy what is left of this beautiful summer.


Oyama Water Quality Issues Addressed

In recent weeks we have received a number of inquiries from Oyama residents about the quality of their water and the Boil Water Notice in effect for their area. In particular, they wish to know when the Boil Water Notice will be lifted and what has been done to date and what is going to be done to improve and solve water quality issues in their area. In response to these inquiries, our Engineering Department has issued the following information:

"The District of Lake Country will be building a new $5 million pipe line, reservoir and chlorination station in Oyama which will improve water quantity and quality to customers on the Oyama Lake Source, east of Wood Lake. In addition to water being sourced from Oyama Lake, as is currently the case, a UV treatment system, pipe line and interconnect will be installed to draw water from Kalamalka Lake and supplement the Oyama Lake source. The design and planning of this project has started and is expected to be completed in stages by the spring of 2013. These upgrades are some ongoing steps towards meeting the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines and Interior Health Authority’s filtration requirements.

Installation of the new reservoir and chlorination station is one of several actions undertaken to address ongoing drinking water quality issues. The District has been improving water infrastructure to the community on a priority basis, including improvements in quality monitoring and operations both in terms of our people and our systems. In addition, the District is in the process of completing a Water Master Plan which is expected to recommend preferred options this coming fall with a presentation to Mayor and Council in November 2010.

In the meantime, an ongoing Boil Water Notice on the Oyama Lake Source originally issued by the District and Interior Health Authority this spring, with renotification on May 20th and July 4th, remains and will continue to remain in effect at least until the Kalamalka Oyama Lake Interconnect project is complete. The District will be installing roadside signage to serve as notification for users entering the Boil Water area.

The District of Lake Country water system includes other water sources: Beaver Lake, Okanagan Lake and Kalamalka Lake all of which are currently on a Water Quality Advisory due to a turbidity rating of “Fair”. Turbidity is a measure of how clear or cloudy the water is. The Coral Beach Water System (Okanagan Lake source) turbidity is rated as good and does not have an advisory.

The District of Lake Country advises that all customers in both the Boil Water area and the group of people at higher risk in the Water Quality Advisory area to drink boiled water or a safe alternative. For further information please refer to the Engineering section of the District of Lake Country web site.

For more information, contact the District of Lake Country: Greg Buchholz (Operations Manager) or Patti Hansen (Water Quality Technician) at 250‐766‐6677 or or Interior Health at 250‐549‐5714 or"

Monday, August 23, 2010

District Of Lake Country Strategy Document

As I previously remarked, Council has deemed it important to take a strategic approach to the delivery of services and programs to District residents. 

In 2009, Council developed a Master Plan that articulates their long term development objectives. Council has committed to a strategic direction that will:

• Develop a strong sense of community

•Promote a positive community image

• Provide housing for all

• Encourage responsible economic development

• Build a comprehensive and integrated trail network

• Create a vibrant social and commercial town centre

• Protect and enhance the natural environment

• Foster diverse agricultural opportunities

• Encourage enjoyment of the unique lake resources

• Promote environmental stewardship

• Promote an active schedule of cultural and social events

• Develop a sustainable financial plan for servicing and growth

Strategic planning is primarily concerned with determining direction while strategic management focuses on implementing strategic directions. The District’s Master Plan envisions a community that addresses and provides for the needs of residents now and into the future. Strategic plans are a means to an end, not the end itself. The result, while informative, needs to be translated into short-term priorities and actions, which is the focus of the District's Strategic Priority Report.

The Strategic Topic List was generated by both Council and staff from a long-list then short list
of issues and opportunities facing the District of Lake Country. Council and Senior Staff identified their top ten items from the long list which they felt should be addressed during the workshop. The strategic topics selected for discussion focused on those deemed to require Council attention (versus primary operational).

In a previous blog entry, I identified the final list. I now wish to reiterate that those objectives are being followed up on and that Council will soon receive a report for a formal approval of those objectives. The report will also provide Council with two policies: the first one will be called 'Decision Making Guidelines', which will assist Council on how they come to their decisions about the various items they discuss or are presented to them; the second one will be titled "Organizational Success Guidelines" and will provide direction on how to measure success and compare that to the significant effort and capacity put into our daily activities at District Hall.

If you are interested in a copy of this report, we will publish it online as part of an upcoming Council meeting. My target is to have this report ready for the September 7th Rwegular Meeting.


Age-Friendly Town Hall Meeting

From Shane Cote', who is coordinating our Age-Friendly Community project:

We are going to be holding a town hall meeting for the Age-friendly Living Guidelines Project. On Monday, September 27th, from 6-8pm, at the Lake Country Municipal Hall, we will meet for two hours to talk about age-friendly planning in the area. I invite you to come out, however old you are, and share your opinions, thoughts and ideas about what age-friendly planning might mean for you now, and in the future.

In October, following the Town Hall Meeting, I will be conducting six focus groups with area residents. If you have two hours to spare, I'd love to hear what ideas you have for creating better connections with your neighbours, for how to access services and District amenities more easily, what kind of transportation works for you and what doesn't, what kinds of District events and communities you are part of, and where and how you might like to contribute even more to making Lake Country a wonderful place to live. The focus groups times vary; there is one offered every day of the week but Sunday, and occur in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I hope to see some of you at these events -- don't worry though, you only need to come to one! Please feel free to print out the posters below and show them to your community groups, friends and family.

Focus Group Times (all will be held in the Carr's Landing Room at the Municipal Hall)

Friday, October 1, 1-3pm

Tuesday, October 5, 1-3pm

Thursday, October 7, 9-11am

Monday, October 11, 9-11am

Saturday, October 16, 10am -12 noon

Wednesday, October 20, 6-8pm

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Letters Patent

Prior to incorporation as a district municpality, Winfield, Oyama, Carr's Landing and Okanagan Centre, existed as Electoral Area A within the Regional District of the Central Okanagan (RDCO).

In 1994 a Restructure Committee was formed to determine the benefits of incorporation and identify the boundaries for the proposed municipality. The vote was decisive in December of 1994 with 59% of the residents voting in favour of incorporation and as such, the Minister of Municipal Affairs implemented incorporation on May 2, 1995 by way of Letters Patent.

The Letters Patent establish the municipality's name and boundary, provide for the first election of the mayor and council, and contain a number of transitional issues. In addition to establishing name and boundaries, Lake Country’s Letters Patent transferred applicable services previously operated by the Regional District, established that one Mayor at-Large, two Councillors-at-Large and one Councillor from each neighbourhood constituency be elected and required that a referendum be held in order to determine the desire of the residents to continue using the ward system.

Letters Patent state that bylaws, contracts, resolutions and permits made or entered into by the RDCO that are applicable to District and within the powers of the municipality, be transferred at the time of incorporation. In addition to the transfer of services including water and sewer systems, zoning requirements, untidy premises and noise control bylaws, Letters Patent established a Fire Protection Services Advisory Committee and a Water Services Commission to assist with the transitional effects of the incorporation.

As required by Letters Patent a referendum as held in 1998 in conjunction with a local by-election. Of the 521 voters that turned out, 85% voted in favor of retaining the ward system. The District of Lake Country prides itself on its accessibility to its constituents and traditional neighbourly values. Lake Country is one of the few municipalities in BC that continues to use the ward system as residents wish to maintain their distinct neighbourhood communities that contribute to the entire community of Lake Country.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Highway 97 Project Update

It is nearing the middle of August and everyone must be peering up at the west hills wondering when the Highway 97 Winfield to Oyama project is going to get started.

A status update as follows:

  • 100% Detailed Design Complete
  • Finalizing Tender Package
  • Property Acquisition ongoing, it is anticipated that the majority of the alignment will be available by Oct 2010
  • Waiting for CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) Screening Report approval from Transport Canada: Required before Tendering
  • Consultation with Westbank First Nation (WFN) and Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) still ongoing

The Project is still moving forward and the team anticipates being able to tender the construction contract this year. The design and property acquisition process has dealt with sensitive and complex issues that take time to produce a quality, acceptable product for all stakeholders. A lot of work has gone into the design in consultation with many stakeholders and technical experts. The project team is now reviewing the work so that any issues and concerns that are found, can be dealt with now prior to tendering, when it is much more economical to deal with.

First Nation Consultation is still ongoing and must be completed before moving forward. Our conversations with WFN (Westbank First Nations) and the OKIB (Okanagan Indian Band) have been positive and all parties have worked hard to move things along quickly. However, the issues and concerns we are discussing are sensitive and require time to evaluate properly.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bylaw Enforcement Process in Lake Country

Bylaw infractions are a common occurrence in any local government that enacts regulatory bylaws. This was highlighted last week when a property owner in the District of Lake Country, believing her neighbour to be contravening an ‘unsightly property and visual nuisance’ bylaw, approached the media in an attempt to get the property owner to take action and clean up his property.

Hazel Christy, Director of Corporate Services for the District, says that local governments have used three main strategies to deal with the problem:

1. Seek voluntary compliance; or
2. Issue an offence notice for infractions, seeking voluntary payment of a prescribed fine; or
3. Initiate formal court proceedings by issuing a Municipal Ticket Information (MTI) or a Summons.

“Voluntary compliance is obviously our preferred way of dealing with bylaw infractions.As is the case with many other small municipalities, we have to prioritize how we spend taxpayers’ funds. Safety, health and the environment are our first priorities and we have always taken the required action when there has been any risk to our citizens even if it has meant costly legal action,” she said.

With reference to the specific case in Lake Country, Christy said, “Although the discarded material is unsightly, District staff inspected the property and found that it poses neither safety, health nor environmental risks. Instead of taking costly legal action, we have been in regular contact with the owner, who has committed to voluntarily clean up all discarded material in order to comply with the District’s
Prohibition of Unsightly Premises Bylaw No. 433.”

Christy says, “The introduction of a new Bylaw Adjudication system will help municipalities tremendously in enforcing bylaws. Municipalities in the Okanagan have worked closely to get this implemented hopefully in the Fall of 2010. The goal of the new adjudication model is to create simple, fair and cost effective systems for dealing with minor bylaw infractions.”

Mayor James Baker, Council and District staff will be engaging with the community to address issues related to bylaws and their enforcement along with other community issues during Front Porch Meetings in the Fall of 2010.

For more information contact Hazel Christy, Director of Corporate Services, District of Lake Country Phone 250-766-5650 or