KELOWNA - How can a bylaw officer deal with a noise complaint if there is no standard by which to measure it?
That was the gist of Coun. Charlie Hodge's opposition to the proposed good neighbour bylaw, a super bylaw of sorts, that combines four of the so-called nuisance bylaws.
Generating the bulk of complaints, the four bylaws — anti-litter, noise and disturbance control, residential nuisance and unsightly premises — have been updated and given some teeth through the adoption of nuisance abatement fees, the centrepiece of the new legislation.
Aimed squarely at repeat offenders in those areas, city staff are recommending fines of $250 be levied on repeat calls of more than one in 24 hours or three per year.
Risk manager Lance Kayfish told council the key to the new fines will be attaching them to the property taxes of the owner, forcing landlords to deal with the actions of their tenants or pay cumulative fines which will be attached to property title.
“Those fees make it very difficult to ignore or walk away from,” Kayfish said.
The abatement fees will be levied on top of the other immediate fines, set at $500 minimum for property nuisance and noise complaints and $100 minimum for everything else.
City bylaw officers will meet with RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department to determine which properties should be placed on a “watch list” and a fine will be levied each time they attend. Serious crime, medical calls such as overdoses and false alarms will exempt.
One noteable change includes a reduced construction period ending an hour earlier at 9 p.m. but offset by the ability of the city engineer to authorize construction outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Conspicuously absent from the consolidated bylaw is the city’s panhandling bylaw which in his report, Kayfish says make it a “better fit” independent of the good neighbour bylaw.
Coun. Hodge was the sole vote against sending it for public debate at an afternoon council meeting after revisions from staff.
The revised bylaw leaves the judgement of what is too loud and too intrusive to individual bylaw officers, regardless of when and where the violation occurs but Hodge says that puts them in peril when attending large parties and other events.
“This is totally unfair to bylaw,” Hodge insisted. “You’re asking them to make a judgement call in a pressure situation with a bunch of people around them.”
Hodge demanded bylaw officers be equipped with decibel counters, but Kayfish told council the trend in municpal bylaw enforcement is away from enforcing specific sound levels during set time periods and toward allowing situational judgements by the attending officer.
Kayfish told council the good neighbour bylaws exist in many other B.C. municipalities including Vernon, West Kelowna and Penticton. While some of Hodge’s fellow councillors shared similar concerns in other areas, none voted against it.
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