When it comes to resolving certain bylaw infractions, the District of Lantzville has decided provincial court is no longer the way to go.
Lantzville councillors, during a council meeting on Sept. 9, voted unanimously in favour of requesting that the Ministry of the Attorney General allow the district to practice bylaw notice adjudication.
If granted, Lantzville would move to a system whereby certain bylaw disputes would be resolved through adjudication and not in provincial court, as is currently the case.
Presently, Lantzville uses a system known as MTI to issue bylaw contravention tickets, according to a staff report, which notes that those tickets require “personal service” and if disputed, can only be dealt with in provincial court.
According to the report, the bylaw notice adjudication system is a “simple” and cost-effective alternative to the provincial court for resolving minor bylaw infractions such as parking tickets, dog licensing and minor zoning issues.
The report also states that the system uses a “resolution-based” approach that obtains “independently” adjudicated decisions and avoids the need for Lantzville to hire legal counsel during bylaw disputes.
The bylaw notice adjudication system is currently used by more than 80 local governments in B.C., including the City of Nanaimo and City of Duncan.
An additional benefit, the report notes, is that municipalities can “join together” to administer the system on a cost-sharing basis.
During the Sept. 9 meeting, Ronald Campbell, the district’s chief administrative officer, told councillors the motion is the “first step” in a process designed to move Lantzville away from the court system and into an adjudication system. He said the adjudication system is streamlined and more efficient.
“What it does is it takes us away from the court system from a time perspective and a cost perspective,” he said. “So once a month or once every two months, the City of Nanaimo will bring in an adjudicator, they will go through all the bylaw infractions and make decisions on them.”
Campbell said the Regional District of Nanaimo, which the district contracts to enforce its own bylaws, just switched the adjudication system. He said the system allows for the fines to be added to an individual’s yearly tax bill.
“If it is a bylaw infraction that doesn’t include parking and the adjudicator rules against the person that was fined, it can be added to the taxes,” Campbell said. “So, it streamlines the whole process.”
Campbell did not provide an estimate as to how much money would be saved by switching to the adjudication system but said the next step would be for council to determine which bylaws would fall under the new system if approved and registered by the province.
“This gets us registered with the province so that we can join that and then there are several other steps that will be coming forward to council, like a new bylaw, new fine rates, etc.,” he said.
Coun. Ian Savage said while he likes efficiency and is supportive of the motion, he worries it could lead to an increase in bylaws.
“I just want to make sure though, that this isn’t the first step in that track of going down more and more bylaws and more and more bylaw enforcement and more and more money to pay for extra bylaw officers we will need for that enforcement,” he said, adding that Lantzville is “light” on bylaws and bylaw enforcement.
Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain said he believes the system will make things a lot more efficient for dealing with bylaw issues within the community.
“This is a lot cleaner for the smaller bylaw infractions,” he said. “So, I will definitely be supporting this.”