Bylaws meant to deal with unsightly properties will come under scrutiny after a local politician suggested it’s too difficult for some citizens to file complaints.
Tom Siddon, who represents Area D of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, said three neighbours must sign complaints and be willing to testify in court about a nuisance property before bylaw officers can initiate action within his constituency of Okanagan Falls-Kaleden.
“If neighbours don’t want to have to appear in court, then we apparently tell them we can’t act on their complaint, and I’m suggesting that’s not good enough,” he told the RDOS board at a meeting this month.
Besides the three-letter rule being too onerous, Siddon continued, it may also violate the privacy rights of the people making the complaints, and dissuade others from coming forward.
RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell noted there is “great inconsistency” in so-called good neighbour bylaws in the different electoral areas and municipalities, so staff would welcome the chance to do a review and possibly harmonize the rules.
Michael Brydon, the director for Area F, said his bylaw allows him to initiate a complaint process, which helps to screen out ungrounded concerns on the West Bench.
“That way the director can say, ‘No, these are feuding neighbours, I’m not going to waste the bylaw officer’s time,’ or, ‘Yes, this is a serious issue,” Brydon said.
Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes, also an RDOS director, said the three-letter rule in Area D was likely meant to screen out bad complaints.
His community ran into problems when “we had a couple people with not much better to do than drive around town and try to find places (of concern) and give us a list.”
Hovanes said there must be a mechanism to ensure the person complaining is “somewhat directly affected” by a nuisance property.
Area G Director Angelique Wood said an ongoing issue in her communities of rural Keremeos and Hedley highlights the need for stronger enforcement action.
She said she’s having a hard time initiating a cleanup on a property in Hedley even though it’s a seeming fire hazard and the owner isn’t around to fight back.
“This man is now dead. It should not be difficult,” Wood said. “So I’d like to see some teeth that make these processes easier.”
Siddon hopes the bylaw review will include broader discussion about the way in which the RDOS will enforce the rules and how much it spends to do so.
“There’s a question of resources here. And if people are paying taxes, $2,000 a crack or whatever, they expect service,” he said.
“The bottom line is that we’re here to make these attractive communities people want to live in, and we have some duty to ensure that these (anti-social) practices are not tolerated.”