Abbotsford City Hall. File photo

Abbotsford City Hall. File photo

Three bylaw complaints to trigger priority status under new city policy

Abbotsford bylaw manager says staff will retain some discretion on case files

Three will soon be the key number to get priority status for your bylaw complaint.

On Monday, council adopted a new policy that will guide how city staff deal with such complaints.

Issues that could pose a safety or legal risk will be dealt with first, according to the new policy. But the second stage of priority will be reserved for impactful issues with at least three complaints by “adjacent” property owners or occupiers – although the city says staff will retain some discretion as far as how such complaints are categorized.

“When we deal with discretion, we will be looking at adverse impacts to our community – so it will not always be about adjacent property owners,” bylaw manager Magda Laljee told council.

The remaining bylaw issues will be dealt with “as resources permit, and in accordance with standard operating procedures,” according to a staff report.

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“This policy will allow us to triage calls so the public will know our process,” Laljee said. “Implementing such a policy should increase compliance with bylaws and also hopefully decrease the number of complaints that staff have.”

Staff say the policy is aimed at ensuring decisions about bylaw enforcement aren’t arbitrary or unfair.

Bylaw staff will also not respond to anonymous complaints unless they relate to a threat to public safety or the environment, and won’t provide ongoing updates to residents about investigations.

Laljee said such updates are time-consuming, can compromise an investigation and often are of limited use to residents because of privacy considerations. When an issue is “resolved,” residents will be notified, Laljee said.

The city has plans for a more comprehensive strategy to deal with bylaw compliance. That effort has been identified as a priority in the city’s recent adopted strategic plan.

Mayor Henry Braun called the policy “sorely needed.” The city opened more than 4,000 bylaw compliance files last year, and Braun noted that some issues can take years to resolve – especially if they proceed to the court system.

Braun urged those not complying with Abbotsford’s bylaws to do so, even if the city hasn’t yet spoken to them.

“The day will come when we will come visit you,” he warned.


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tolsen@abbynews.com

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