City staff are looking to untangle and simplify 30 years worth of bylaws that govern life in Abbotsford.
A three-phase project will hope to make the city’s bylaws easier to find, to read and to figure out what, exactly, they mean, Aniz Alani, the city’s in-house lawyer, told council Monday.
Some of the current bylaws refer to outdated jurisdictions, and look and read like they were drafted decades ago. Already, staff have converted the bylaws into an easier-to-read format that can be posted online and which will be formatted similar to how provincial laws are presented.
The next work will be to tidy up the language.
Cities are allowed to “change structure and diction without actually changing the legal meaning of the bylaws themselves,” without going through the normally lengthy revision process, Alani told council. Changes must still be voted on and approved by council.
Alani said the changes would enable the consolidation of the various portion of bylaws that govern tax rates into a single document that would be easier for residents to read and understand.
“We’re going to go line-by-line through all of these bylaws and figure out what is the simplest way of communicating their content without changing the legal meaning,” Alani said.
The third phase will entail fixing bylaws that are outdated or are contrary to current city policy. Those changes will have to go through a lengthier process prior to approval.
“If phase one is to have bylaws look modern, and phase two is to have bylaws sound modern, by the end of phase three, the hope is that the bylaws will actually be modern,” Alani said.
The conversion of the bylaws to ensure they are online-ready has already been completed. Staff hopes to have minor and substantive amendments completed by the end of the 2020 fiscal year.
Alani said the project won’t require more resources.
But it will require two new bylaws. One will authorize staff to start work to make revisions, the other will be a new “interpretation bylaw,” that will mimic and replace similar language in many of the existing bylaws.
“I love it. It’s an awesome idea,” Coun. Brenda Falk said. “I know a lot of time when we are reading the bylaws sometimes they don’t make a lot of sense because they aren’t necessarily written in easy-to-understand language.”
She applauded Alani’s suggestion that the city would use examples will help the public understand them better.
“There should be no mystery to the person reading the bylaw to understand ‘am I permitted to do this or not,’” Braun said.
He said it could be particularly useful in dealing with agricultural bylaw issues.