North Cowichan is looking to streamline and strengthen its process in dealing with properties that the municipality considers to be a “nuisance”.
At the council meeting on Dec. 16, council adopted a bylaw that will allow North Cowichan to recover costs through property taxes when a property owner has failed to mitigate a nuisance, which includes noise, odours, garbage, offensive materials, overgrown vegetation, graffiti, and other offences, on their property.
The bylaw also allows bylaw officers to move more quickly to deal with nuisance properties without having to consult and get approval from council first.
In a staff report, Michelle Martineau, the municipality’s manager of legislative services, said legislation before the new bylaw was adopted provided for fees to be charged when staff or a contractor must enter the property to complete the work in order to deal with the nuisance.
“However, these costs [did] not include the time spent by bylaw enforcement officers when attending to the property to compel the person or owner to stop an activity that constitutes a nuisance, or to take action to mitigate the nuisance,” Martineau said.
“Historically when [North Cowichan] has dealt with nuisance properties through a complaint-driven process, bylaw officers have worked with property owners to bring about compliance. However, there [were] times where the owner of that property has failed to take action as directed for mitigating the nuisance, such as an accumulation of garbage or unsanitary conditions, and bylaw officers have had to go to council for approval of a remedial action report in order to clean up the property.”
Martineau said the new bylaw will authorize the municipality’s manager of fire and bylaw services to issue a clean-up order without having to go to council for authorization to issue the order and clean up the property.
She said that although other municipalities such as Nanaimo, Pitt Meadows, Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach and Ladysmith, have adopted similar bylaws to allow for cost recovery, their bylaws lack regulations which would enable bylaw officers to deal with nuisance properties without having to seek approval from their councils.
“In those municipalities, their staff must still bring forward a report to request authorization to issue the order and take action,” she said.
“This is a step that will slow the process down by two weeks or even a month during the summer.”
Some council members asked in an earlier meeting what specifically constitutes a nuisance in regards to noise and unsightly properties.
In regards to noise issues, Mayor Al Siebring said most noisier properties, such as saw mills, are on properties zoned for such purposes.
“What’s unsightly for one person may not be to others,” he said.
“That is up to our staff’s discretion.”
Coun. Kate Marsh said there was a property deemed a nuisance in Chemainus a number of years ago that took a lot of the bylaw officers’ time to deal with.
“If we had this [bylaw] then, the problem probably wouldn’t have gotten so bad,” she said.