City hall is considering neighbourhood referees as an alternative to bylaw enforcement.

City hall is considering neighbourhood referees as an alternative to bylaw enforcement.

Neighbourhood referees suggested for Nelson

Feathers ruffled by backyard chickens and other bylaw infractions could be dealt with in a neighbourly approach.

Feathers ruffled by backyard chickens and other bylaw infractions could be dealt with in a neighbourly approach.

Nelson police chief Wayne Holland, Randy Jantzen of the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College and city councillor Kim Charlesworth presented the idea of the Neighbourhood Facilitator Program

Jantzen told council it came about when the idea of backyard chickens was brought up last year.

“The essence is that we’re proposing for the City of Nelson an alternative to bylaw enforcement,” said Jantzen. “It’s a model where neighbours are helping neighbours solve their own problems.”

The issues addressed by the program could include typical issues of fences being too high on a neighbour’s property to barking dogs.

“Often these issues can take a lot of time and resources, and often when we have these problems we ignore them or resort to a higher power to prove we’re right and another person’s wrong or we take matters into our own hands. That often isn’t worthwhile,” said Jantzen.

With the help of the Mir Centre, interested facilitators would be trained to go out into the community and help defuse and resolve disputes.

“We are actually embarking on our own volunteer-based peer mediation program for our region starting in January,” said Jantzen. “Mediation isn’t where someone again decides who is right and who is wrong, it’s working to help people solve their own problems and to empower people to transform conflict and nurture relationships.”

The new program would also provide an alternative to the penalty-based bylaw enforcement currently used.

“Let’s say someone builds their fence that is perhaps a bylaw infraction. Perhaps if neighbours come to some kind of conclusion where the fence doesn’t have to be taken down, or can be modified slightly, then everyone is happy. Looking for win-win situations,” said Jantzen.