A General Guide to Bylaw Compliance Within the City of Vernon
Respecting the rights of our neighbours and ensuring that our property values are maintained is an important aspect of community living. At times, however, boundaries may be crossed and Bylaw Compliance Officers are given the task to investigate complaints received from the public about alleged violations of various municipal bylaws. In addition, Officers are tasked with enforcing the Provincial Motor Vehicle Act regulations concerning parking, in order to ensure an increased degree of safety for our residents. These regulations may include such things as parking too close to a fire hydrant, stop sign, crosswalk, etc., parking adjacent to yellow lines or parking on the wrong side of the road.
The goal of the Bylaw Division is not to penalize the citizens of Vernon or visitors to our City but, rather, to achieve compliance through education and the provision of information in order to preserve the quality of life to which each citizen is entitled.
The City of Vernon Bylaw Division
The Bylaw Division enforce approximately 27 regulatory bylaws, as well as Council policies, guidelines, and resolutions within the boundaries of the City of Vernon. Included in these regulatory bylaws is the Good Neighbour Bylaw - which includes many of the regulations regarding living or working within the City of Vernon. This bylaw contains regulations concerning Noise, Property Maintenance, Panhandling, Clearing of Sidewalk Snow, Nuisance Smoke and Boulevard and Lane Maintenance. In addition to these regulations, the Division enforce regulations contained within the Zoning, Parks and Public Places, Grafitti, Sanitation, Business Licence, Refuse Collection, Sign Regulation, False Alarm, Traffic, and Parking Facility Bylaws. A number of these bylaws may allow the charging of fees for properties with repeat "nuisance" or "false alarm" calls, which required attendance by City Bylaw Staff or the RCMP. The City also participates, through their membership in the Regional District of the North Okanagan, in a number of regional bylaws. These bylaws include the Dog Control bylaw and the control of Noxious Insects, and are enforced by the Regional District or their contractors. The City of Vernon Bylaw Division also provides enforcement of the RDNO Greater Vernon Regional Parks bylaw within Regional parks. This includes; Kal Beach, Kin Beach, Polson Park and a large number of additional Parks controlled under agreement with RDNO and the Greater Vernon Services Commission.
Dog control is done as a Regional function. The Dog Control contractor for RDNO is currently K-9 Animal Control and may be reached at 545-8070 or through their website www.dogcontrol.ca . Complaints regarding barking dogs, dogs running loose, dangerous dogs, dogs in parks, etc… are dealt with through this contract. Please contact the regional contractor directly.
While there are certain areas of enforcement that are safety related and require proactive enforcement, the majority of these bylaws are enforced on a complaint only basis. This ensures that the bylaw division is serving the needs of the community and that the complaints received are of high importance. To make a complaint regarding a violation of regulations contained in one of these bylaws, the City requires the complainant provide their name, address, and phone number, as well as their relationship to the issue ( neighbour, concerned citizen, etc....). Should the complainant refuse to provide this information, under Council policy, no action may be taken by the Bylaw Division. In cases relating to health or safety issues, this policy may be disregarded.Compliance procedures may take many courses. These enforcement proceedings are normally increasingly costly to the person in non-compliance, and may include direct enforcement (City staff or contractors remove or resolve the non-compliance at the property owner's cost), municipal ticketing, the seeking of a court injunction, or the laying of charges under the bylaw provisions. Each complaint is different and the enforcement proceedings are decided upon based on the individual case. In addition, should complaint issues arise on an ongoing basis from either the Good Neighbour or False Alarm bylaws, charges may be placed against the property owner and eventually collected as taxes. These regulations ensure that property owners remain responsible for what occurs on their property.Compliance proceedings, in most cases, are completed within a month of the initial complaint. Depending on the volume of complaints, co-operation of the property owner or person in violation, specific circumstances of the case, and enforcement proceedings required, completion of the complaint may take longer.
Severity of Complaints:
To ensure that the Bylaw Division is run effectively and efficiently, the complaints that are accepted are in regards to more serious and/or visible issues. Nuisance regulations will not be enforced against minor infractions such as dandelions, or other non-noxious weeds in lawns, etc... , but will be enforced against properties where there is an overgrowth of vegetation. Under an existing Council resolution and policy, leeway is given to larger development properties or agricultural properties. Some issues we receive complaints on are considered either as a civil matter between the two property owners, or as minor non-enforceable infractions. These issues may include trees overgrowing property lines (you may cut off what extends over your property line, but are responsible for removal of the limbs) and fence disputes (we do enforce height regulations, but not siting, etc... ).
How to make a complaint:
The Bylaw Division will receive complaints in various ways; by phone at 550-3505, by fax at 550-3506, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and in person at our offices (Monday to Friday 8:30-4:30) at 3001 32nd Avenue. Please ensure that all complaints include a name, address, phone number, relationship to the property or individual that you are making the complaint about, and the issue. Should the complaint be made in print, one of the bylaw officers may wish to call and confirm information, or ask further questions regarding the issue.
Considerations to be taken when initiating a complaint:
Under a City Council policy, complainant information is considered as confidential and will not be released to the person whose property is under complaint, unless under an order made by the Provincial Freedom of Information Commissioner. In almost all circumstances, the Freedom of Information Commissioner has sided with a Municipal Policy and not allowed complainant information released, but each case may be looked at individually and decisions may vary accordingly.
The City may request or require a complainant to act as a witness, should a case be required to be settled in court. This is usually done as a last resort, should the City case be weak or should the bylaw division be unable to determine that a violation has occurred without the evidence of the complainant. A complainant would normally be informed of this requirement at the time of the initial complaint or during the investigative process.