People who break Abbotsford’s bylaws will no longer be able to hope their cases are forgotten. And the maximum fines for those who don’t comply with the city’s rules are set to rise dramatically.
The city has overhauled its bylaw enforcement plans, with an eye on educating the public about the city’s rules and better deterring those who don’t abide.
The new strategy has an initial focus on public awareness and putting a “comprehensive plan in place to educate and inform,” Magda Laljee, the city’s bylaw services manager, recently told council.
But it won’t be all kind words and helpful messaging. The city is looking to better organize and simplify the complaints process, to simplify those for residents and to reduce the number of rule-breakers who fall through the cracks.
Laljee said the city currently has an “aging inventory of open but inactive non-compliant files.” A spokesperson confirmed for The News that those allude to properties and offences that are known to be in violation of the city’s rules, but for which no further enforcement steps have been taken.
Several years ago, during a review of agricultural issues in Abbotsford, staff estimated that there were more than 300 farm properties in contravention of city rules.
A new system will alert bylaw officers about older files that should be followed up on to make sure work has been done, or is being done, to address the problem.
The city is also dramatically hiking the maximum penalty for bylaw offences. That follows changes to the provincial Community Charter that allows for larger such penalties.
The maximum fine will be increased from $10,000 to $50,000.
Laljee said ensuring everybody knows the rules will hopefully stop problems before they arise.
“When the community is involved, people hold each other accountable, they know the rules and it works.”
Mayor Henry Braun noted that enforcement is important, especially when it comes to dealing with those who reap financial gain by breaking the rules.
“I want the viewing public to know we don’t start with enforcement, we start with compliance,” he said. “And we give people opportunity to do that more than once. But there are some people who the only language they understand is a hefty penalty. They know very well they’re not complying with the bylaw, because of lots of different reasons. These outstanding long-term files, that’s part of the problem. So I’m pleased to see the $10,000 going up to $50,000 because that will get people’s attention.
“Some people don’t care about the compliance and their bottom line is just to make money, the heck with the bylaws.
Not properly enforcing bylaws, Braun said, angers those who do follow the rules.
“It infuriates them because they’re following the bylaws, and they see that some of these people have been doing it for year after year, decade after decade and nothing happens.”
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