EDITORIAL: Bylaws be bygones

We’re going to let you in on a little secret. Municipal bylaws are almost meaningless. Unless you’re parked somewhere you shouldn’t be, municipalities are loath to get out the ticket book to deal with infractions.

We bring you the story this week of a hostel that has been operating in contravention of the City of North Vancouver’s bylaws for close to two years. While egregious, it is simply one example of a wider problem.

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Bylaws are meant to keep the peace between neighbours and protect the environment and human safety, but enforcing any of our hundreds of municipal statutes may require time consuming investigations and co-operation from property owners and witnesses. If tickets are disputed, they have to wind their way through the court system which takes months or years. And even with a winning ruling in your hands, it requires yet more court time and legal bills to get any real action.

It isn’t financially prudent for a municipality to rack up thousands of dollars in legal bills to force someone to pay a fine of a couple hundred dollars. Most often, people caught breaking the rules are given an education letter, which costs nothing and is of dubious impact.

This is why no one ever is held accountable for leaving their sidewalks iced over, why some lawns are greener than others during a watering ban and why you can probably light up a dart under a No Smoking sign without consequence.

The NDP is changing the maximum amount stratas can fine their owners for violating short-term rental bylaws to $1,000 per day but until the province gives sharper teeth to municipal and strata bylaws, they will remain by-suggestions.

What are your thoughts? Send us a letter via email by clicking here or post a comment below.

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