City of Nelson is in the process of adding new fines to several municipal bylaws.
The change will bring adjudication penalties up to $500 that bylaw officers can issue, similar to a parking ticket, without going through the courts. Currently many bylaws can only be enforced through summary convictions.
At a council meeting last week, the first steps were taken towards adding fines to five bylaws that relate to park use, property maintenance, waste management/wildlife attractants, smoking on city premises and business licensing.
The bylaws themselves were not re-written — that will come later — instead city staff focused on making it easier to enforce what’s already laid out in the documents.
Mayor John Dooley noted that having some of the proposed fines in place would have helped the city when dealing with some of the safety concerns when the Occupy Nelson camp was set up in front of City Hall.
“We knew it was an unsafe environment for people to be cooking in — our fire chief told us it was unsafe — but we couldn’t to anything about it because we didn’t have anything in the bylaw to enforce it,” Dooley said.
If the proposed fines are adopted, a $75 ticket could be written for anyone caught camping, sleeping or preparing meals on public land. Also being considered under the parks bylaw are fines for: allowing dogs to run off leash in parks or beaches ($75), parking a vehicle or gathering socially in the park after hours ($75), consuming liquor in the park ($75), littering ($150), damaging park signs ($500) and removing lawn or plants from a park ($500).
Under the property maintenance bylaw, $250 fines are being considered for unsightly properties and the accumulation of rubbish, as well as for allowing the spread of noxious weeds of plants. While the waste management/wildlife attractants bylaw could bring fines of $150 for having unsecured garbage, waste left on the curb before 5 a.m. on collection days, or failing to remove fruit from the ground.
Councillor Candace Batycki worried that the bylaw could be interpreted such that residents could get fined for having a compost pile, but city manager Kevin Cormack assured her the bylaws would be applied with common sense.
“Bylaw enforcement is complaint driven. You’d have to be causing a disturbance to your neighbours before we’d ticket you for something,” he explained, noting that the definitions of the offences were kept intentionally broad to encompass a range of unwanted behaviour.
The proposed change to the smoking regulation bylaw would add a $75 fine for lighting up contrary to signage, for example at bus stops or in amenity areas. While the business licensing bylaw could soon include a $150 fine for businesses that are either unlicensed or fail to display their license.
Also proposed under each of the bylaws is a fine of $500 for obstructing a bylaw enforcement officer or stopping the officer from inspecting your business or property.
The changes still need to pass third reading at the council table and then the fines will need to be added to a separate adjudication bylaw, which will likely happen in the coming weeks.
Nelson first began adding adjudication penalties to bylaws in 2011, when fines were introduced for traffic, noise and building violations. In 2012 the tree bylaw and fire prevention and regulation bylaw were added to the list.