Bylaw resolutions simplified

It is about to get harder to avoid paying bylaw fines in Penticton and throughout the Okanagan Valley.

  • Feb. 1, 2011 8:00 p.m.

It is about to get harder to avoid paying bylaw fines in Penticton and throughout the Okanagan Valley.

Starting this week, the City of Penticton will join eight other local governments in resolving minor infraction ticket disputes outside the provincial court system using an independent adjudication process.

The partnership will include: Oliver, Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Vernon and Lake Country as well as the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

In the past, according to the city, municipalities such as Penticton had three options when trying to process or collect minor bylaw infractions ranging from parking violations to zoning infractions. After issuing a ticket, the municipalities could either seek voluntary compliance; mail out an office notice seeking voluntary compliance; or take the person to provincial court.

The first two relied on the citizenry duty of the person being fined and naturally did not work very well. The last option, requiring an attorney or two, often cost more money than it was worth. Subsequently, many local governments chose to avoid enforcement beyond a strongly worded letter asking for the money.

So in 2003, the provincial government set out to change that trend, enacting legislation that would provide local governments with alternative approaches. Discussions between local municipalities began in 2006, with staffers from some of the municipalities and the regional district hammering out the details.

The “quasi-judicial” system they came up with will employ a four-step process where bylaw infractions are ticketed; notices are sent out; disputes are reviewed by a city-appointed review officer with the authority to cancel the ticket; and if required, a hearing involving an adjudicator appointed by the deputy attorney general.

At the hearing, the adjudicator, selected from a roster, will hear from both the person disputing the ticket and a representative from the city, before deciding whether the infraction occurred. The decision of the adjudicator will be final with no course for appeal, except in cases where the adjudicator exceeds his or her authority or makes an error in law at which point the matter can go to the Supreme Court of B.C.

“The (process) is modeled on other municipal bylaws where an adjudication registry is already in place, notably the districts of North and West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver and municipalities in the Fraser Valley,” reported city clerk Cathy Ingram.

“It is expected that … participating municipalities will benefit from economies of scale in working as a group.”

“This is another example of local governments working collaboratively to streamline administrative processes,” said Mayor Dan Ashton. “This will save the taxpayer time and money.”

In addition, Ashton, along with Penticton chief administrative officer Annette Antoniak, has been working with mayors and CAOs from Kelowna, West Kelowna and Vernon on “issues of mutual concern.”

Earlier this month Ashton proposed Coun. Mike Pearce’s idea to collectively brand the Okanagan Valley as the Festival/Event Capital of Canada.

The mayors agreed to take the concept forward to their respective tourism agencies for consideration. The group also discussed a variety of other issues including: gas tax funding, bio-solids disposal and taxi services.

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