Grand Forks municipal bylaws to get more bite with amendments

Grand Forks is in the process of streamlining city bylaws by tentatively approving changes and adopting a ticketing bylaw.

Grand Forks city council began making a number of bylaw amendments at its June 24 meeting.

Grand Forks municipal bylaws are on the path to gaining more bite.

At the June 24 council meeting, Grand Forks city council continued the process of streamlining city bylaws by tentatively approving changes to eight of them and adopting a Municipal Ticketing Bylaw (No. 1957) that establishes a system of fines.

Three readings were given with final reading taking place at an upcoming meeting.

Mayor Brian Taylor said many residents and taxpayers had been asking for this type of change.

“It’s basically a graduated ticketing bylaw that is common in British Columbia,” Taylor said.  “We’re not the only municipality that has it or is working on it. Basically what it is, is  just a change to allow us to enforce our bylaws.”

An example, Taylor said, would be that the bylaw enforcement officer could say, “We’ve asked you to clean up your premises three times and if you don’t comply we will fine you $50 a week until it’s cleaned up. And if you don’t pay, we will put it on your taxes.”

When asked if there had been negative reaction to the fine system, Taylor said, “Up until now, people have seemed to be more concerned that we can make all the rules we want, but we haven’t been able to enforce them.”

The Municipal Ticketing Bylaw spells out 98 bylaw infractions and fines that go with them. They range from $50 for a variety of city traffic infractions, $100 under a number of noise control bylaws to $200 for burning without a permit under the Grand Forks Fire and Safety Bylaw.

The process is ongoing, according to Taylor.

“All of our bylaws are going to go through the process of being made consistent with our Municipal Ticketing Bylaw so when we have bylaw infractions, we can impose a fine. We can, but we don’t have to. There is a program of increasing penalties for those who defy the rules,” he said adding, “It certainly is going to make it a lot easier for us to step up the pressure on those who are simply thumbing their nose at reasonable rules.”

Up until now, the city has had to go to considerable expense to enforce bylaws. Taylor used the example of a property in the downtown area that was unsightly and that required a court injunction to force the owner to clean it up, costing taxpayers over $7,000 in court and legal fees.

Taylor recognized that there were some dangers in such a system of monetary penalties. “I think it is an improvement,” he said, “but I think we have to guard against the city having too much power. There have to be some checks and balances with this.”

Further information is on the city’s website. Residents wishing to raise concerns can do so before council.

“The Committee of the Whole meeting will be a place where we will be airing a lot of this discussion,” Taylor said. Committee of the Whole Council meetings are held Mondays between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., with the next one being scheduled for July 22.

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